Sunday, August 23, 2009

Manga Review: Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl

Manga Review # 003
Title: Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl
MSRP on Individual Volumes: US $10.99
MSRP on Omnibus Volumes: US $14.99

Delayed but not stopped, here comes another manga review! I'm your Navigator Richard J., fresh from watching the Team Marilyn battle in The Law Of Ueki. (This series started off as a guilty shonen pleasure but it's gotten better and better as it goes.)

So, now let me introduce you to this complete manga review for Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl! Originally, this series was released as five single volumes and is now being re-released as Omnibus collections. For this review, I'm using the individual volumes no one gives me free stuff to review so everything I review, I've bought. (If I gain enough followers, I can conquer the wor- er, I mean get free stuff to review. Yeah, that's what I meant.)

Our guest host today is Yuria of the manga series Yuria Hyaku-shiki! Tell the folks a few things about this manga please Yuria!

Yuria: Ah, okay. Hello everyone!


The story of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl is by Satoru Akahori who has been involved with script writing for Dragon Ball Z and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi among others. So you know you're dealing with talent right?

The art is by Yukimaru Katsura, a talented artist who worked on the manga adaption of AIR. Did you know that series started as a visual novel with ecchi scenes?

Richard J.: Focus Yuria! This is a family blog! (Maybe?) I know you've got a bit of an addiction to H things but keep it together!

Yuria: Oh! I'm sorry, I'll be good. Mostly.

The manga has been published in it's entirety by Seven Seas, who my host is a bit annoyed with due to their canceling a lot of titles he was buying or wanted to buy. The light novels going away really bugs him. They could have at least finished the one's they started.

An anime adaption of the manga was released sub-only by Media Blasters. However, don't let that bother you too much dub fans! The anime was an example of adaption decay due to coming out before the manga was complete. It missed a number of the more interesting twists of the manga, made one character act very out of character and ended in a way so incorrect that had to make an OVA to try and fix it.

Of course, it makes my host's blood boil a little just to hear about that company since they've recently made a bad dub decision and. . . oh, his veins are bulging and not in the right place, so I'd better move on!

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl was selected as a Book of the Month by Newtype USA prior to it going under!

Richard J.: I'll take over now Yuria! Don't leave though.

First, lets see some covers! This is part of why I recommend the single volumes!


Now here's the backs!


There is a single color page per volume. I would have taken pictures of them but, honestly, I just couldn't seem to get the covers to open enough to take them without damaging my volumes. I don't know if they are retained in the omnibus editions but they are just various images, typically of the girls in the series and some that are just Hazumu the main girl.

All volumes together now!


Yuria. . . Okay, fine, hog the spotlight a little.

Yuria: I'm sorry, I just can't help it! You looked so annoyed before and I know you like my uniform.

Richard J.: You're such a sweet girl.

Okay folks, here's the details. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl is a romantic sci-fi comedy/drama with gender-bending. Yuri isn't just a theme in this manga, it's very much a driving force.

The story centers around Hazumu Osaragi, a very feminine and delicate boy who has a lethal close encounter with aliens. Fortunately for him, the aliens bring him back to life. Unfortunately, the process doesn't work right and he's brought back as a she! To top it off, he was rejected by the girl he loved, Yasuna Kamiizumi, right before it happened! Hazumu takes the whole gender change remarkably well and, frankly, considering how girly he was before, I think you could safely say he was a lesbian trapped in a boy's body from the start. (His childhood wish was to be a friend's bride.)

Anyway, after the gender change is when things get REALLY complicated. Now, Yasuna's suddenly interested and Hazumu's best friend Tomari Kurusu is freaking out, his father is humorously turning into a dirty old dad, his mother couldn't be happier since she can dress her daughter up and Hazumu's best male friend Asuta can't quite come to grips with the situation because he's torn between thinking of Hazumu as his best bud and as a cute girl who happens to be his type!

And that's before the aliens come to live with him. Well, one alien and a spaceship.

Yes, you heard that right. A spaceship. It turns into a ridiculously moe girl who also wants Hazumu, in a probably platonic way. (However, Jan-puu is also very likable just as a character once she calms down a bit.)

To say that Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has all the elements of a wacky sci-fi comedy would be an understatement. And it does have some very funny moments, generally involving Tomari freaking out early on about Hazumu's change, Asuta at almost any point where he can't turn off his hormones and of course there's Hazumu's teacher Tsuki Namiko who has but two purposes in the story: to fall in a silly way and to inform the reader, in an over the top way, that she's been single for 35 years. However, this series shines brightest when it gets deep and emotional.

The tangled web of relationships is watched over by another of Hazumu's friends, the quiet Ayuki who thinks of herself as being in a cocoon and has no intention of involving herself in the world as she likes just watching it all. She's a very interesting character in her own right as she isn't emotionless like most loner characters of this style but rather detached from it all. She's an interesting contrast to the alien.

The solid love triangle that forms between Hazumu, Tomari and Yasuna takes many interesting and emotional turns. The book actually opens with a kiss and it ends with a true life-time commitment. There is so much in terms of character development and interpersonal drama that to talk about it all would spoil too much. Let me just say that the alien scientist living in Hazumu's bedroom, who takes on the name Sora Hitoshi, spelled with characters that could be read as "space man," has plenty of research to work with.

Tomari's fierce determination to protect Hazumu, Yasuna's desperate desire for a connection she rejected initially and Hazumu's inability to make a choice lead them down some very unpredictable turns. The character drama between the three main girls is intense and lightened by the comedy bits, though many of those begin to feel quite out of place over time. (And, frankly, Namiko-sensei falling stopped being funny to me in the first volume.)

The plot twists near the end that revolve around the reasons why the alien's regeneration technology turned Hazumu into a girl also play a major role. (Yes, there is an explanation that is quite a shocker.) The reason for the alien and his spaceship girl to have even come to Earth is quite serious as well. Even the feelings Asuta begins to develop toward Hazumu, initially played for comedy, are allowed to be treated seriously.

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl is a series you need to own. Despite some flaws with the comedy, the romantic drama is incredible and the ending really ties things together and shows just how strong love can be.

I don't know if the omnibuses will contain them, but the individual volumes have excellent omake comedy bits with the cast (several focusing on Ayuki being a bit of a mad scientist) and there are excellent translation notes. Even the Japanese names of flowers are talked about, which is a big help.

Again, here's all the volumes.


I highly recommend this series if you like Yuri stories or if you just want a powerful romance tale. As I've said, the comedy is actually a drawback as the series progresses but it never quite manages to derail the flow and becomes less as the story moves along. I wouldn't buy this manga for the comedy though I wouldn't say it's not funny when it wants to be. (Except with the falling. Poor Namiko-sensei must have pissed of a god of falling or something.)

This manga is available at the following fine retailers: Robert's Anime Corner Store, Amazon, Books-a-Million and The Right Stuf.

By the way, in case anyone has been wondering why I give a link to Books-a-Million and not Borders or Barnes and Noble, it's because I've personally had some negative experiences with Borders and Barnes and Noble, plus they're hurting economically. I've linked to the omnibus editions because of the lower overall cost but I recommend the individual volumes.

Also, you might want to get this figure if you like the manga/anime. I don't own it myself but it makes me drool.

And also, you may want to buy another lovely lady!


Yuria: Huh? Me?

Richard J.: Sure! You've been a good guest host and, frankly, I think you're figure is very nice and more than a little ecchi. Plus my pics don't do you justice as they didn't quite come out right. I think people should buy your figure because you're cute and sexy and I'd like to see your manga, Yuria Hyaku-shiki come out over here. How many other machines like you are portayed with personalities?

Well folks, that's it for another review. I'm trying to come up with a separate scale for manga (Cat Girl Scale is great but I want something different for manga and something for light novels as well since I hope to see Yen Press publish many.)

Since I don't have one yet, let me just go ahead and say I'd consider Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl a Five Star series if not for the constant falling of one teacher, which brings it down to Four. (But this one has special merit, despite coming from a cancel happy publisher.)

*EDIT: I now have a scale for completed manga series! Behold the Library Girl Scale!



Anime Review: xxxHolic

Anime Review # 002
Title: xxxHolic
Release Type: 6 Single Disc Volumes (Complete Series Available Now)

Welcome to the Sunday edition of Blog of a Heretical Dub Lover! It's strange, I didn't really feel like doing anything today but I sat down and started working for hours on this anyway. Why did I work today?

Maybe it was inevitable. I'm sure Yuko would say that. As your Navigator, I Richard J., hereby formally welcome you to a shop of wish granting and a review of xxxHolic. This is a 24 episode (23 main eps and one side story) series by Director Tsutomu Mizushima. Director Mizushima also worked on Funimation licensed series Big Windup and Media Blasters licensed series Genshiken. The series is animated by Production I.G. and based on the best-selling manga by CLAMP. (Do I really even have to tell you who they are or give you that link?) Production is by Ayakashi Research Society.

Now, since it keeps raining so annoyingly around my house, I asked-


Ame-warashi: HEY! What do you mean annoyingly? Do you have any idea what would happen if there was no rain? Do you?

Richard J.: Ow! You hit me with your umbrella!

Ame-warashi: Yeah, so what, you rain hater.

Richard J.: Oh for the love of. . . look can you just do what we discussed?

Ame-warashi: Fine. Only because it's favor for Zashiki-warashi.

Here's the deal folks. xxxHolic is a story about Kimihiro Watanuki, a not-so-average high school student who can see and interact with spirits like other people do stray animals. He gets about the same results too with some of the spirits being pretty nasty and others being very sweet. He's got a bit of a spastic personality but Watanuki's not a bad guy at all.

One day, he wanders into a shop that seems very out of place and meets Yuko Ichihara, the seemingly free-spirited mistress who grants wishes. Declaring his visit inevitable, she proceeds to more or less con him into being her choir boy for however long it takes to work off his debt for a wish to keep the spirits away from him. Watanuki's a first-class cook apparently so this is a big win for Yuko.

By the way you might not know this, and some fansubbers and so-called elite fans will mislead you, but the "xxx" in the title indicates variability, like the variability of the needs of the various customers to Yuko's shop, and it's not supposed to be pronounced. The correct way to say the title is just Holic. So don't pronounce the x's when you say the name and tell anyone who does that they are being stupid.

Also in Watanuki's life are Shizuka Doumeki and Himawari Kunogi. As much as Wataknuki wants to pretend otherwise, Doumeki's the best friend he's ever had. He frequently protects Waranuki by using spiritual powers and his skills at kyūdō to send dangerous spirits packing. Himawari is the girl of Watanuki's dreams but clearly he doesn't get that those are actually nightmares he's having. The first anime series doesn't get to it but that girl is trouble! Let me tell you about her-

Richard J.: Whoa! Hold it! No spoilers!

Ame-warashi: Fine. Whatever. I'm talking about Zashiki-warashi then! She's the one Watanuki should be begging to date him. She's sweet, gentle and a nice being! Powerful too though most people are such jerks that they make her feel terrible just to be around them. Why Watanuki chases after that Himawari is beyond me. That girl is nothing compared to my friend.

So, that's the basic plot. Watanuki works for Yuko and in exchange, some day, she'll make the spirits leave him alone. Of course, beings like myself and Zashiki-warashi are a lot more powerful than mere spirits. Then again, Yuko's power is truly frightening.

It's your turn now, right?

Richard J.: Yes. Thank you for your efforts. Now, I'll give my thoughts on the positive aspects of the show.

Ame-warashi: I'd like to hear them.


Richard J.: Sure, stick around as long as you want.

Okay, here are my thoughts on the positive side of xxxHolic. Funimation has released this series as both a 6 volume single disc release with a snazzy art box and as a single box set collection. This review is based on the boxset but I say if you have the space, the money and a desire for more artwork, the singles and art box are quite nice.

On performances in the series: Our guest host is Ame-warashi, voiced by Kate Oxley in the series. She gives off the strong personality of a being unaccustomed to pleasant dealings with humans with just a hint of self-importance. She's an excellent recurring character in my opinion.

Todd Haberkorn brings Kimihiro Watanuki to life. I don't care what any other reviewer says, she's just plain great as Watanuki! He adds such vigor to Watanuki's comedic displays of anger and annoyance as well as a quiet emotional poignancy to parts of the story that can leave you a bit teary-eyed.

Colleen Clinkenbeard gives Yuko Ichihara a teasing and sometimes childish tone while also managing to be quite sexy and wise sounding. It's a multifaceted performance that deserves some praise given how difficult a character Yuko is to figure out. Is she a mentor to Watanuki? A potential lover? A malevolent being out for his soul? All of the above is a valid character interpretation too with what we see of her in the anime. Despite Yuko's frequent claims that things are inevitable, she seems to be quite interested in changing Watanuki's destiny.

Shizuka Doumeki is voiced by J. Michael Tatum and gives off a gruff stoicism fitting to the character. The only real problem is that it is sometimes a little difficult to hear what he's saying! Tatum's strongest moments are when Doumeki acts to defend Watanuki, even against a being that Watanuki wants to protect. He comes across aloof at times but Doumeki really is one of the best friends Watanuki could ask for.

Ame-warashi: And he has such a fresh essence.


Richard J.: Yeah, he does. Wish I had a friend like him.

Despite being the primary "love interest," Cherami Leigh's Himawari Kunogi is an extremely flat character. She's constantly cheerful and utterly oblivious to Watanuki's obvious affection. However, this is not poor acting on Cherami's part. Rather, the anime fails to get into the part of the story that really deals with Himawari. There are hints of her true nature in Episode 8: Contract.

Brina Palencia voices Zashiki-warashi and also Moru. While she's not the best performance in this series (that goes to Todd's Watanuki) she steals more scenes than any other VA. The character of Zashiki-warashi is a refreshing counterpart to Himawari. She's a supernatural being with a crush on a certain boy who is often accompanied by Ame-warashi or karisu tengu who beat the stuffing out of anyone they think has made her cry. Zashiki-warashi also features a lovely character design that seems consistently wonderful throughout the anime. (Here's a story about where to find a real one if you'd like.)

As Moru, she steals scenes like mad in cahoots with Leah Clark's Maru. Maru and Moru are unsual girls who work/serve/are dependent on Yuko. Their background is, most unfortunately, only hinted at in the anime. However, they are constant scene stealers, always saying and doing things that make a person smile. I don't know if they were intended to be "moe" but they trigger that sort of a reaction in me, although their personalities are similar to children and they are clearly wise and strong. The most moving scene with them in my opinion is in Episode 23: Choices. (Oh and FYI Maru and Moru's full names can be translated as Flashing and Streaking, so keep that in mind when watching the first episode.)

Although she plays an active and important role in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Carrie Savage's black Mokona is little more than Yuko's drinking buddy and another harasser of Watanuki. Mokona has a few moments here and there to shine but they are fleeting. The deeper, snarkier tone Carrie uses for black Mokona vs. white Mokona really fits this one's personality but her talent is wasted as the character could be removed from the anime with few problems.

XxxHolic is a fairly episodic and episodes can be a bit hit or miss. The best episodes are those that focus on Watanuki trying to help or interact with powerful supernatural beings or just learning about the unseen world. Episode 4: Fortune Telling is a very calm episode overall but it is also very effective and features one of the most thorough debunking of a fortune teller ever by Yuko herself. (She knows the real ones from the fakes.) Everything on the second box set disc from Episode 7: Hydrangea which features Ame-warashi's first appearance to Episode 12: Summer Shade in which Watanuki and his circle of relatively human friends travel to the beach, are all very good episodes. Episode 11: Confession features the first appearance of my absolute favorite character, Zashiki-warashi. Personally, I find most of the episodes on the third and fourth discs of the boxset to be good as well but some are very fluffy and do little if anything to advance the plot.

Ame-warashi: This is where you tell them the bad part right?


Richard J.: Sort of. Here's where I explain what isn't so great about the show.

Remember when I said xxxHolic is episodic? Well, that's part of the problem. The anime suffers from some adaption issues due to the manga crossing over frequently with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. The anime removes most overt references to these crossovers, as well as moving some stories around, adding a few orignal ones and so on. The result is that the series narrative is a bit jumbled. It's not a horrible mess but it hurts.

Primarily, this means that the series feels almost like a slice-of-life anime rather than a supernatural chronicle of Watanuki's development as a person, which I believe is the true point of the story. As previously mentioned, the first anime also fails to address numerous issues such as the truth about Himawari and why Watanuki is so willing to keep putting his life on the line. Also, Maru and Moru's nature is left largely unexplained. It is more than a little annoying but acceptable.

Some of the episodes feel week and others just leave you going "okay, that was cool but what about Watanuki and getting the spirits to lay off him?" Also, while xxxHolic can hit us with some truly eerie creatures (the monkey's paw and the hand things creep me the hell out) many of the bad spirits that Watanuki is plagued by are just silly looking. Dark cloudy things with oddly placed eyes and limbs and mouths aren't exactly all that frightening. Plus someone really enjoyed doing that animated smoke. When the series focuses on a spirit, they tend to give us a much better design though.

While I'm talking about character designs though, I have to mention that xxxHolic has very inconsistent ones. The designs by CLAMP for the manga are stylistically rather unique and convey a lot of mood and personality but they don't translate well to moving pictures. I'd call them anime off-model but it's more like variable model. Expect some bodies but if you can get past them, expect some interesting story-telling.

So that's my take on this anime! Cat Girl score card reads: Photobucket

XxxHolic is available at the following fine retailers, none of whom pay me a dime for my links, in boxset and singles form. Robert's Anime Corner Store, Amazon, Best Buy, FYE and The Right Stuf.

Singles are available at several of these sites as well but the artbox is harder to come by. Want to watch a few episodes free? Funimation as this one up on their Video Portal!

Since Funimation has already reviewed the packaging, here's a link to Hey Nice Package where you can check it out.

Well, that's it for this review. Complete manga review will be up later tonight.

Ame-warashi: You know, I think you did a good job.


Richard J.: Aw thanks.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Rant: What Do You Mean It Costs Too Much?

Welcome to the first Rant here on Blog of a Heretical Dub Lover. Please give me a moment to switch borrowed personalities.

Pst. Minoru. You're up.



Oh. We're doing a Rant today?

I'll be your raging Minoru today, Richard J. Today's Rant is about the cost of anime.

Like the title says, what do you mean when you say it costs too much or a new boxset set is "premium pricing" at $59.98 or even $49.98 for HALF A FREAKING SERIES!

I know, I know. Arguing about the price is pointless. Anime effectively has no value due to all the illegal free subbing. So, while you can argue that the official releases have come WAY the hell down in cost, you can never quite convince people that they are getting their money's worth. R1 companies used to use premium packaging and physical extras to entice buyers but now that doesn't work well enough and the number of anime consumers has dropped.

They've cut costs as much as they can and in the cases of several of Funimation's competitors, tossed out the English dub which is one of the very few features that actually counts as 100% value-added content versus fansubs/bootlegs of the Japanese release. They've cut the disc count and gone for cheap packaging, dropped on disc extras for the most part and all of it to bring the overall price down. According to Robert of the Anime Corner Store, keepcases can save a studio 2% or 3% in replication and transportation costs due to their lighter weight and thus are cheaper to ship in bulk. We also know that the costs of anime dubbing have actually dropped below the often quoted $10,000 an episode number. (Which is good to know as I intend to one day use any spare thousands on paying for dubs to be made for shows I love. Yes, I'm serious.)

So what is going on? People still complain about the cost because it's still more expensive than free and, since Funimation is now the only company really licensing a lot, they get to be called an evil monopoly. For managing to not massively cut back on releases, and even expand a little, they're labeled that way. People still complain about the prices and always will. They'll complain about companies not running themselves into the ground too. It only makes sense if you're brain is wired wrong but run with it folks!

Meanwhile, the number of anime consumers continues to drop, not only here but in Japan too! According to ANN, sales in Japan for the marketplace of games, music, manga, films, etc. fell for a second year in a row in 2008. The market fell 2% to $136.357 billion. (Yes, I know that sounds like a lot but remember, that is not the net profit, that's the value of the industry. Little of that is liquid assets. Traditional income sources like DVDs and such fell 3.9%, after having already dropped 3.6% in 2007. Some good news on TV and the net though with television and broadcast revenues increasing 2.9% and Internet sales increasing 12.5%. Unfortunately this doesn't make up for the falling DVD sales and, no, Blu-Ray doesn't either. In other words, the Japanese costs are going up on a product that many people don't even want to pay for.

On the US side of things, the economy has gone to hell and if the economists are right, either we're getting set up for another big drop or we're still not going to see enough jobs coming back. So anime consumers look at the price for a half series set, say "wow, expensive" and just download it. Even though the cost is demonstrably lower than it used to be. Plus, falling sales in Japan mean that eventually there will be increased licensing fees while the value of the US dollar has dropped so low, foreign governments are losing confidence in it.

Geneon prices? DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THEM? Over a $100 bucks for a 13 episode series? TODAY'S PRICES ARE NOT PREMIUM!

A big part of the problem is that no one actually cares about the costs to the company. They just want it cheap, fast and perfect. Period. No exceptions, no concern for reality. You see this kind of mentality everywhere nowadays. People simply don't care about the logistics of things.

Another part of the problem is that corporations have been made into a modern day bogeyman by the general media, with people being told that they are all extremely wealthy and just charge people apparently for giggles because it could all be free if not for the evil and corrupt corporate executives. Look at the "Funimation is a monopoly" line that people are using in many places now. They suggest that their prices are higher for no logical reason other than they've managed to not shrink while others have all but vanished from the market place. (Dear goodness, heaven help us when success is rewarded with paranoid delusion.)

If Funimation qualifies as a monopoly at all (it doesn't under the classic "only one firm produces the good" definition though it does under more modern ones) it may be considered a "natural monopoly" because anime distribution costs a lot to start up, has marginal at best profit and has numerous natural barriers to entry, such as the need to form a relationship with people from another country as well as to convince anime fans to become anime consumers. The fact is, however, that if Funimation is a "natural monopoly," then they are actually considering their competitors price-structures, which is the exact opposite of what bad monopolies do! Do a price comparison on MSRPs for them and other companies and you'll find that when both titles have an English dub, the prices are more or less the same and can be better than their competitors.

Look at the MSRP for half series sets of Sasami Magical Girls Club originally at $39.98. Compare them to ADV's Clannad release MSRPs at $39.98. Sasami has a dub. Clannad doesn't. Does anyone actually believe Sasami sold better than one of the most highly fan-anticipated series of the year? (Oh and Sasami's come way down in price too.)

Yes, that evil Funimation, charging so much more than their competitors for anime sets! Fiends! (Yes I'm aware that $49.98 and $59.98 are also used but again, consider the presence of a dub and compare. They differences in price are just not significant.)

Moving on, the vast majority of anime fans/consumers simply do not know what it actually costs to make anime, distribute anime or do anything legally with anime except buy it. $59.98 is a fairly typical MSRP for season box sets of live-action series that are out of the mainstream. Supernatural season 4 has such an MSRP. It also has a lot of bonus features but it already made back many of it's production costs in commercial sales while it aired on US TV and product placement. Anime sales in R1 represent virtually the only profit the R1 company gets for the series. Also, complaining about the half-series sets: 13 episodes is considered a cour in Japan, though it can vary dramatically. That's the equivalent of a full season over here. So in my opinion, current prices are in line with many live-action TV series releases so, frankly, I wonder what exactly fans are comparing the current prices to. A theoretical price? A price of Free? Bootlegs?

Heck, I've been buying for years now and by any rational and objective standard, the prices are at a low for anime. To consider the current pricing to be premium is just. . . well, I'd very much like to know exactly what a fair price is under this scenario because even sub-only half-series sets aren't that much cheaper than this when they are cheaper and if Bandai is any indication, they're going to be LESS cheap going forward. In fact, this is almost a certainty as maintaining profit margins with a continually diminishing number of actual anime consumers and the rising costs of doing business. (Taxes are going up and so are utility costs! Damn I love paying more for my electricity so some bureaucrat whose got millions can feel like he/she's "saved the planet" don't you? By the way, guess what a confirmed "natural monopoly" is? You're local power company! Don't like your power bill being so high? Your SOL! Oops, didn't mean to get political, won't happen again in this Rant!)

So, to bring this Rant to a conclusion because it needs one at this point, anime is NOT premium priced and is in fact MUCH CHEAPER than it used to be. English dubbed anime is especially cheap when you consider the cut profit margins for the R1 company. Cut profits that have led to ditching artboxes and sweet on disc extras.

Now, does that mean we shouldn't want more bang for our buck? Should we not expect extras on disc or better packaging? HELL NO! We should want them. We should demand them! All I'm saying is we have to expect to pay more for them and, for now, we shouldn't expect anyone but VIZ, Funimation, Bandai (when they have a TV deal) and Media Blasters (when they feel like it but don't expect them to get back prior casts because they aren't doing it with Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny and NO I AM NOT BITTER ABOUT IT AT ALL) to do an English dub and as time goes on, none of them will provide bonus on disc content unless they got a really great deal on it as a standard feature for a release. (Why do the Japanese charge for extras separately from licensing? They can so they do because they need the money too!)

I suggest a new take on Limited Editions: Extremely small runs, less than a 1000. Very expensive, totally tricked out, for the HARDCORE fan of a series. And sold online only because that cuts the price too. Direct to consumer from the company too, they can have an unpaid college intern handle it.

That's it for this Rant. I'm sure you're all hoping to never see another one. Back to you Akira-sama.


Hmm, she's stunned. Well, this has been Richard J. in Minoru mode ranting at you. I would have gotten it up sooner along with some more reviews but I've been sick this week and only really started getting back on my game yesterday. Expect two reviews this weekend though. One anime complete series set and a complete manga series. Ones from a favorite company and ones from a company I am now only finishing already begun series from as I have vowed to never again start a new one from them!

By the way, I think an Ame-warashi must be hanging around my house because it's been raining daily for about three weeks now. Seriously, I am not kidding, the house of Richard J. has been rained on daily for weeks now.

Bye! Akira-sama cute mode will be back next time!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Manga Review: Ichiroh!

Manga Riview # 002
Title: Ichiroh!
MSRP: US $ 10.99 (CAN $ 11.99)

Greetings and salutations! I am Richard J., the Navigator of this Blog of a Heretical Dub Lover!

Welcome to our second ever manga review! Yah, clap clap. Today I'm reviewing Ichiroh! written and drawn by Mikage! I've read this one numerous times since I bought it and I love it in all it's 4-koma goodness. Our guest reviewer today will explain a few reasons why!

Captain Teletha Testarossa: Reporting for duty sir!


Richard J.: Thanks for giving me a hand. And can I play with your hair?

Tessa: You're welcome and no.

Richard J.: Darn.

Tessa: Before you discuss this manga, I need to properly introduce readers to the product.

Here is the front cover. It features our main heroine, Nanako Konishi, described as "levelheaded for her age" on the character bio page. She's highly practical and always trying to save money. Also featured on the cover are chibi versions of her best friends Akane Nakazawa and Shino Murasaki.


Tessa: And now the back cover. Here we have a rare scene of all three girls together relaxing.


Tessa: Now, I turn the blog back over to Richard J. for a bit to tell you the plot. I haven't been able to read it yet. Classified operations really make personal manga time a no no.

Richard J.: You should make time for this one Tessa! And so should my readers, at least in my humble opinion.

Ichiroh! is the story of Nanako, Akane and Shino, three girls who are the best of friends (though Shino would like to be a bit more than just friends with Nanako) and their journey together into college life! They've been together through elementary school, junior high and high school, so staying together in college is just natural! They'll be together through it all!

Or at least that was what they'd intended. Studious Nanako and gamer girl Akane messed up and failed their entrance exams! Now, the two are ronin, students who are preparing to re-take the entrance exams after failing. Specifically, they are first-year ronin or ichiroh! Hence the series title. (Thanks to Yen Press's translation notes this is clear. Without them, I'd have no idea why the manga was called that!)

Nanako and Akane move into a dormitory behind a shrine, due to the savings Nanako is desperate for, and begin attending a prep school to get ready for another shot at the entrance exams. A good bit of plot takes place there. The series takes quite a bit of humor from the trials of studying and uncertainty about college with Nanako. Akane only really takes the whole thing seriously late in the manga and makes herself quite sick near the end. (It's surprisingly emotional seeing the resident genki girl have a physical breakdown. Also hilarious when Shino tries to take care of her.)

As you can guess, Ichiroh! features a lot of student humor so it's easy to relate to. However, if that's not your cup of tea, fear not! There is plenty of funny to go around with Nanako's occasional moments where she becomes a bit obsessive or out matures her own father and older brother (though it's not hard to out mature the brother!) Also, the series has Shino and even Akane dashing in surprising amounts of Yuri subtext. Actually, it's very possible that the subtext isn't subtext at all, with Shino outright declaring herself the love rival of a male who loves Nanako.

Although she can't attend prep school classes with Nanako and Akane, Shino appears quite often and always stirs things up. Her outgoing and friendly personality belies her inner schemer. When she shows up, you can expect her to fawn over Nanako and try to get closer to her. For the resident rich girl, she's almost as wild as Akane. Other major characters are Nanako's brother, the shy otaku girl Mai Shindou, teacher Kaname Mitsuba, Anko-san and Baa-san who run the dormitory and shrine and the prankster Wakaba-chan, a young girl from the neighborhood. Even with a strong supporting cast this is still the main three girl's show.

On a personal note, when I read this one, I tend to assign English dub VAs to the characters and try to hear the characters as those VAs would play them. Nanako is Luci Christian, Akane is Monica Rial and Shino is Kira Vincent-Davis in my mind.

I would love to see this series made into anime and dubbed with these VAs.

The balance of humor and seriousness in this manga is tipped in humor's favor but it has it's drama moments. This is a comedy first and foremost though. Slice-of-life is the name of the game and while there are bits of Yuri subtext and the otaku favorite miko/shrine maiden, it's first and foremost a student comedy. I have a lot of favorite scenes with this one. Too many to mention in fact!

As a Yen Press title, you can expect a high level of production quality and Ichiroh! is no exception. There are a total of 8 color pages, which includes the entire short arc of the initial entrance exams as well as the character intro page.

Tessa: Here are a few examples. This is the first color page, a cute image that really shows you to the character's relationships.


Tessa: Next, here's a shot of the bio page and the first page of strips in color.


Richard J.: Thanks Tessa! Just a few more shots to go!

Let me tell you readers, paper quality is as good as always with Ichiroh! Mikage does quite a good job with character designs as well, really bringing them to life. The eyes are especially expressive. Eyes can range from blank white circles to intricately detailed pupils and irises. My favorite eyes are Nanako's when she's glaring and squinting at something and Akane's super-excited blank eyes. Akane's hair is also styled to look like cat ears, which just adds to her moe-factor. (She's like a little kid most of the time but she's also extremely observant and understands the hidden motivations of other characters.)

Single character focused art appears frequently throughout the manga as well.

Tessa: Yes. Here is an example of one of the focus images of Nanako.


Richard J.: If you can read the strip next to it, you can enjoy Akane expressing the threat of studying to her life.

Ichiroh! includes translation notes and an Omake section that talks about the covers that Nanako graced for the magazine that serialized this series in Japan. This is also a chance to explain the seemingly out-of-characterness of them. It's really quite clever in my opinion.

Well, that does it for this review I think. Tessa, any final words?

Tessa: I'd like to say that from what I've seen of this series, it's quite nice and a must buy for any 4-koma fan. I empathize with Nanako's brother trouble too. Although mine are a bit different.


Tessa: Thank you for the chance to meet your readers! If any of you have time and some money, please consider buying Funimation's release of Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid on DVD and soon to be on Blu-Ray as well as ADV's release of Full Metal Panic! and Full Metal Panic!: FUMOFFU! Thank you again!

Richard J.: Always my pleasure Tessa!

Ichiroh! is available at this fine retailers and others: Robert's Anime Corner Store, The Right Stuf, Amazon and Books-A-Million! I highly recommend this one to all of you, especially if you are a 4-koma fan!

Look forward to a contest in September folks and a rant before the end of the month. (You did ask for it!) I'll have an anime review or two this week as well.

Hope you enjoyed this latest blog entry. I'm so grateful to all of my readers, both following this blog actively and lurking in the shadows. Although I'm mostly doing this for my own fun, I really appreciate your continued support! Please let other know of this blog if you think they'd like it!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Personal Update: I know I Haven't Posted Enough Lately. . . .

Yo yo my followers! You're Navigator Richard J. here to once again babble like a brook.

I promised a slew of reviews and by golly gee evilkers I intend to put them up!

Unfortunately for you, for the last week and change I've been waiting to find out various things that deal with my future as a student! On the good news side, I've been accepted to law school. On the bad side, I have to defer a year due to my family needing me to stay closer to home to help my Dad who is having a few medical problems. (Nothing too serious folks. We're just a very cautious family.)

All of this has meant I haven't had a lot of time to write reviews.


Yes, it is sick and wrong. However, starting tomorrow, I'll start putting up several.

I have plans to review two manga, one a full series review and one a first volume review and at least five anime series (three Funimation, two Geneon and maybe one ADV.)

I may not get to all of them before the end of the month but I'm going to try. Please look forward to it and please leave me comments as they are precious to me. Like kittens.

I'm also hoping to debut a new contest in September to coincide with my Birthday.

You may also have a chance to read a rant but I'm still debating if posting my deranged rambling in angerish mode is really a good idea.

So see you Sunday for a new review or two and hope you keep reading! I love all of you in a completely friend manner that is platonic and absolutely not something to require restraining orders.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Anime Review: Heroic Age

Anime Review # 001
Title: Heroic Age
Release Type: Half Season Sets (Complete Series Available Now)

Hello again my fair readers! Welcome once more to another exciting, if at times meglomaniacal, episode of Blog of a Heretical Dub Lover! I'm your Navigator Richard J.! I'm super-pleased to see I have a new follower and, in honor of that honor, I'm doing our first anime review! (Prentend I'm not a day late!)

Applause! Clap, clap.

The first and hopefull far from last anime review will be Heroic Age, a 26 episode series animated by Xebec with Argonaut Crew and Starchild Records as the Production overlords. The music is by Naoki Sato, the original story is by Tow Ubukata and the character designs are by Hisashi Hirai. (I must mention, this is the character designer for Gundam Seed! I love this character style!)

As always here at BoaHDL, we have a guest host for our reviews. Today's guest host is Princess Dhianeila her self!


Princess Dhianeila: I'm very grateful to be here on behalf of the Argonaut. It is an honor to represent humanity's quest for survival here.

Richard J.:I'm the honored one. Please, tell us what Funimation has to say about your mission.

Princess Dhianeila: Of course. The corporation releasing our chronicle uses the tag line "a boy will be the salvation of man" for this DVD release. That boy is Age, our savior, who possesses the Heroic Tribe within himself. We onboard the Argonaut searched for a long time to find him, for he is the only human to have been raised by the Golden Tribe, the great race of beings who left our universe long ago.

I wish we sought him only for peaceful reasons but alas, we need him to rescue the Iron Tribe, humanity, from our enemies the Silver Tribe and the Bronze Tribe. The Silver Tribe have great psychic abilities and consider themselves the sucessors of the Golden Tribe whereas the Bronze Tribe are a race of insects that travel through space and are subordinate to the Silver Tribe. Together with the Heroic Tribe, a race of powerful but savage beings, we four tribes alone answered the Golden Tribe's call to come forth into space.

We seek our savior on a planet outside the reach of a Star Way. He is the fifth Nodos. The other four Nodos, beings who possess the Heroic Tribe within themselves, are under the control of our enemies the Silver Tribe. Without Age's help, humanity will be overwhelmed by our tribe's enemies.

Richard J.: Thank you for that summary of your mission. Can you tell us a little about the DVD release?

Princess Dhianeila: Of course. This release has two parts. Each part is a two disc box set, featuring cover art from the original Japanese release. The images are quite lovely. The second disc of each release features Textless Songs and Trailers as Extras. The whole series has been released and has an English dub as well as the original Japanese dub. It is all uncut of course.

Richard J.: Please allow me to add some opinions. The plot of Heroic Age has a number of references to Greek myths, most prominently those surrounding Heracles and the Twelve Labors. Age has Twelve Labors of his own and the nature of these labors and what they have to do with the prophecies of the Golden Tribe become important plot points within this series. The title of the series is also a reference to Greek mythology and the names of the tribes are loosely based on the Five Ages of Mankind.

The focus of this series is mostly on great battles in space and between the five Nodos, those beings who possess the Heroic Tribe within. Each possesses unique abilities and is of a different tribe/species. Age and Yuty La, the Silver Tribe's Nodos, are the two best fleshed out in my opinion. Also of importance in the series is the epic quest aspect, as the characters move toward their respective goals, you get a sense of just how amazing it all is.

Positive elements: This series has great action, good animation quality and excellent VA work. Special praise to Cherami Leigh, primarily for her performance in the last four episodes. Scenes are stolen by Monica Rial as the twins Mail and Tail. The plot flows well and reaches a proper conclusion, so this is a very self-contained series that won't leave you going "okay, but what happens next?" While you may want to see more because you enjoy it, you won't need to see more to know how the story concludes.

Negative elements: This release lacks decent extra features. Most glaring is the lack of special clean closings for the last episode and one in the middle, which feature unique closings. While this is not a No-Buy issue, it is agravating. Also, the unusual names can make it hard to follow at times until you've learned them, especially with the Nodos who all have two names. The politcal aspects and intrigues are not as deep as some series as the focus is on the epic battles.

Princess, can you talk about some of the characters? I think that would help people.


Princess Dhianeila: Certainly. I've already said that Age is our savior. He's also very kind despite being a fierce warrior. I pray for his safety. Bellcross is the Heroic Tribe member within him. In the English dub, he is voiced by J. Michael Tatum.

I am the humble princess of the Altria system. I have psychic abilities that are unusal for my tribe but they also make it very difficult for me to be around others. Especially men. I believe I can overcome my weakness. In the English dub, I am voiced by Caitlin Glass.

Karkinos Rucan is the first Nodos Age encounters. He is voiced by Christopher R. Sabat. His Heroic Tribe member is Lernaea. He is proud and deeply protective of Yuty La.

Mehitak Bore, who is voiced by Greg Ayres, is the second Age encounters. His Heroic Tribe member is Artemia. Although he wishes not to fight, his masters the Silver Tribe send him into a terrible battle.

Lecty Leque is the third Nodos Age encounters. She is voiced by Stephanie Young and is a confidant of Prome O, a member of the Silver Tribe who is uncertain of the goal of destroying humanity. Her Heroic Tribe member is Erymanthos.

The final Nodos that Age encounters is Yuty La. She is voiced by Cherami Leigh and is the Silver Tribe's Nodos. Her appearance belies the terrible power of her Heroic Tribe member, Cerbius. She is frequently in contact with Rom Ror, the most ardent advocate of humanity's destruction among the Silver Tribe.

Richard J.: Thank you Princess. I think that covers all the most important players.

Princess Dhianeila: But I have yet to mention the crew of the Argonaut or my brothers!

Richard J.: Don't worry, I am sure that those who buy the DVD will quickly learn about them. You've introduced the two major players in this story and the Nodos the Silver Tribe controls, who can be confusing due to their double names, and I think that is enough.


Princess Dhianeila: If you believe that is enough, I will accept it.

On behalf of the Iron Tribe, the race of humanity, I ask that all of you please purchase this chronicle on DVD! My host Richard J. has awarded it a high score. Please tell them good sir.

Richard J.: I have found Heroic Age to be worthy of the following score!


Heroic Age is available at Robert's Anime Corner Store, Amazon, Best Buy, The Right Stuf and FYE.

If you'd like a review of the packaging for this series, check out Hey Nice Package!

Well, I hope this review came out okay! I'm signing out now!