Nisekoi Vol. #07 Manga Review

Nisekoi Vol. #07 Manga Review A Christmas to remember!

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Naoshi Komi
Translation: Camellia Nieh

What They Say
It’s almost Christmas, but Chitoge’s not in a festive mood, because her mother, Hana Kirisaki, is visiting Japan for the winter holidays. Chitoge introduces her false boyfriend to her workaholic mom, who then decides to test his mettle – by making him work as her secretary! While laboring away, Raku can’t help but notice the strained relationship between Chitoge and her mother. Is there anything he can do?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Starting the volume off with a bang, Tsugumi’s past comes back to get her in the form of a girl named Paula McCoy. After Raku steps into a firefight to break them up, things settle down for a bit as we learn that the two used to work together. However, Paula’s frustrated at how girly and soft Tsugumi has become, and as such challenges her to a battle for Raku’s lips, with the condition that the boyish girl returns to the states with her if she loses. An intense battle erupts, but as Paula expected, Tsugumi’s crush ends up impeding her ability to follow through. Just how will this insane challenge come to a peaceful conclusion?

Next up, when the class point rankings pop up, Marika turns out to be right near the bottom, apparently quite poor when it comes to studies. Will she be able to focus enough to pull her grades out of the gutter, or will she be too distracted by schemes to grab Raku’s heart? Following this is a rather hilarious chapter in which Chitoge tries her best to catch Raku’s attention, failing at every turn. We then get a surprisingly endearing chapter in which Ruri loses her glasses.

Finally, we hit the big story of the volume. As Christmas approaches, Chitoge’s mother returns home. However, it turns out that she’s a rather intimidating business woman, and the way she hardly seems to pay attention to her daughter ends up getting to our heroine. When Raku gets roped into assisting her, will he survive the experience? And just how far will he push himself to mend the bond between mother and daughter?

In Summary
Though a lot of the volume is spent on small, goofy chapters, there fortunately isn’t a dud in the mix. Pretty much every one of them makes for some solid laughs, along with a few touching moments along the way. There are also some nice bits of effort towards giving certain characters some more depth, which is much appreciated. Paula seems like a fun addition to the series as well, though it’s hard to tell how involved she’ll be in future volumes. The big event of the book, though, is of course the introduction of Chitoge’s mother. She’s appropriately outlandish in order to bring on the laughs, but at the same time her story arc ends up one of the much touching and sincere moments in the series thus far. This volume may not have any huge reveals or mind-blowing events, but even so it stands as a perfect example of how the series should handle a more low key volume.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+
Package Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: January 6th, 2015
MSRP: $9.99

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FUNimation Reveals New ‘Free! –Eternal Summer-’ Anime DVD/BD Plans

FUNimation Reveals New ‘Free! –Eternal Summer-’ Anime DVD/BD Plans

While originally planned for a late September 2015 release, FUNimation delayed the release of Free! Eternal Summer with no new date not long before its previous debut date. Now the company has updated their plans and revealed a new edition to go with it as well. The first thing to note is that the release in general is getting an upgrade as the OVA, aka episode fourteen, is now set to be included in the set. Since it wasn’t broadcast nor on TV, it’s good to see it finding its way here.

The other new thing that will definitely delight fans is that there’s now a premium edition being solicited in addition to the limited edition and the regular edition. The premium edition is priced at $119.98 and will have the limited edition set inside it while also including what you see above. The release in all its forms will arrive on February 16th, 2016 while the premium edition will include:

  • The Free! –Eternal Summer- Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, featuring a gorgeous rigid chipboard box with water gloss effect inspired by the Japanese release
  • A full-color art book, including many gorgeous pieces exclusive only to the original Japanese releases
  • Seven glossy art cards also using exclusive, highly detailed art from the covers of the Japanese releases—you’ll definitely want to frame these
  • A color sports towel, so you can take the boys to the pool or beach!An Iwatobi and a Samezuka decal to show off your school pride
  • And finally, everything housed in a handsome collector’s box to hold all your Free! collectibles

Additionally, those that order the premium edition from FUNimation directly will be entered to win a 1/8 scale figure of Haruka, which you can see below.

FUNimation Reveals New ‘Free! –Eternal Summer-’ Anime DVD/BD Plans
FUNimation Reveals New ‘Free! –Eternal Summer-’ Anime DVD/BD Plans

Extras for the release on disc include the Episode Commentaries, The Competition: English Voice Actor Video Extra, Web Previews, Extended End Card Collection, Illustration Collection, Memorial Promo Video, Promo Videos, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

The English dub is directed by Jerry Jewelly bsed on the scripted by J. Michael Tatum and the cast includes Todd Haberkorn as Haruka, Vic Mignogna as Rin, Johnny Yong Bosch as Makoto, J. Michael Tatum as Rei and Greg Ayres as Nagisa. The supporting cast includes Jerry Jewel as Momotaro Mikoshiba, Josh Grelle as Nitoai Aiichi, Jamie Marchi as Gou, Ian Sinclair as Sousuke, Caitlin Glass as Miho, Robert McCollum as Seijiuro, Chris Sabat as Goro, Clifford Chapin as Takuya and Micah Solusod as Kazuteru.

Free! Eternal Summer is directed by Hiroko Utsumi based on scripts by Masahiro Tokotani and character designs by Futoshi Nishiya. The series stars Nobunaga Shimazaki, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Mamoru Miyano, Tsubasa Yonaga, Daisuke Hirakawa and Yoshimasa Hosoya.

Plot concept: The cherry blossoms are blooming, the sun is shining, and it’s the perfect time to hit the pool! Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei are anxious to get into the water and warm up their winter muscles ASAP, but things aren’t all flip-turns and finish lines. Haru’s passion for swimming is drying up, which dashes Rin’s hope for a true rivalry. With their futures after high school looming over them, Makoto and Haru are having a hard time focusing. And a gruff new Samezuka student, Sosuke, appears just in time to jeopardize Iwatobi’s chance at nationals.

Spice & Wolf Vol. #11 Manga Review

Spice & Wolf Vol. #11 Manga Review A surprise offer for the Kerube narwhal!

Creative Staff
Story: Isuna Hasekura
Art: Keito Koume
Translation/Adaptation: Jeremiah Bourque

What They Say
Scheming abounds in Kerube, and the fate of the entire town hangs in the balance! Lawrence has gotten swept up in machinations–again–and this time he’s not even sure which side he’s on. With Holo’s help, he’s going to have to see through the lies to discover the truth of the plans surrounding the narwhal, and if he fails, not only will crucial information about Holo’s homeland slip through his fingers, but the merchant woman Eve could pay the ultimate price!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The balance of power and money in Kerube is complicated, so much so that Koume-sensei’s diagrams really are necessary to understand what’s going on and who is involved. And of the players, the one whose true intentions are least clear is Eve. However, in Volume 11, Ted Reynolds of the seemingly impoverished Jean Company drops a deal on the table that throws everyone for a loop. Unfortunately, we don’t get a diagram that outlines its full effects, but what is clear is that Kieman holds Eve responsible. As a result, the woman who had been a wolf in the negotiations winds up a damsel in distress.

Lawrence has been on the receiving end of Holo’s help for much of their journey, but this situation gives him the chance to play hero. His goal quickly simplifies to proving Eve’s noninvolvement with Reynolds’s source of funds. It’s then that the coin packing scheme that Col discovered earlier in the arc truly comes into play. What started as a geometric puzzle winds up the key to accounting fraud although I had to read Lawrence’s reasoning twice before I understood it. What is much more straightforward is when he gallantly charges in to take out Eve’s captors.

In the end, Lawrence gets out of a tricky situation unscathed and with both Eve and Kieman indebted to him. The tone of the manga implies that the narwhal negotiations also end happily, but even with a final diagram, it’s unclear whether the transaction changes the balance of power in the Kerube marketplace. Lawrence and Holo, however, obtain the lead on the book they’re investigating and set off for their next destination.

For those familiar with the light novels, Fran and Hughes get the briefest of cameos before the setting shifts to Lenos. To be honest, they don’t have much to do with the manga version, and their appearance seems rather forced. That’s also the case with a rather lengthy scene at the Beast and Fish Tail. As such, the volume closes before the next arc can begin in earnest. However, the creators do leave readers with a tantalizing hook, an unexpected encounter with Elsa from Tereo.

One other thing I noticed about this volume is that the women seem to be a lot more…er, curvier. Holo’s one thing, but when Eve collapses on Lawrence’s bed without her cloak, her chest is so big it seems impossible she could have hidden her gender. And their visit at the Beast and Fish Tail seems more about showing off the barkeep’s ample bosom than anything else.

Extras include the title page in color and closing remarks from the creators.

In Summary
The Kerube arc finally concludes! It’s been a difficult story to follow with so many players and backroom deals. Although Col’s coin mystery fits neatly into the wheelings and dealings, I can’t tell whether the northerners or southerners get ahead at the end. Lawrence and company, however, definitely profit, and they move on to the next arc, which apparently will lead to the manga’s final conflict.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
MSRP: $13.00

‘Constantine’ Adds Three New Promos

‘Constantine’ Adds Three New Promos Constantine is set to premiere on October 24th on NBC and the marketing ramp up continues since it’s one of the later shows to arrive this season in an attempt to build into the Halloween time period that should help it some. NBC has rolled out three new thirty second spots (plus extras) that show off different parts of the show with a few new minor bits of material along the way so that there’s something for everyone.

Constantine stars Matt Ryan as the lead character alongside Angelica Celaya, Harold Perrineau and Charles Helford. It comes from Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer with Neil Marshall directing the pilot. The series is set to premiere on October 24th to play up the Halloween and supernatural angle and draw in potential audiences that way. Constantine will call Friday night at 10pm home where it will follow Grimm and will give up its position later in the season when the third season of Hannibal returns.

Plot Concept: Seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, “Criminal Minds”) specializes in giving hell… hell. Armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and his wickedly naughty wit, he fights the good fight — or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to leave his do-gooder life behind, but when demons target Liv (Lucy Griffiths, “True Blood”), the daughter of one of Constantine’s oldest friends, he’s reluctantly thrust back into the fray – and he’ll do whatever it takes to save her. Before long, it’s revealed that Liv’s “second sight” — an ability to see the worlds behind our world and predict supernatural occurrences — is a threat to a mysterious new evil that’s rising in the shadows. Now it’s not just Liv who needs protection; the angels are starting to get worried too. So, together, Constantine and Liv must use her power and his skills to travel the country, find the demons that threaten our world and send them back where they belong. After that, who knows… maybe there’s hope for him and his soul after all.”

The Realism Challenge Book Review

The Realism Challenge Book Review A solid and engaging teaching tool.

Creative Staff
Author: Mark Crilley

What They Say
Are you up to the challenge?

With just watercolors, colored pencils, and white gouache, artist Mark Crilley takes you step-by-step through his process for producing stunning, hyperrealistic recreations of everyday items. Based on Crilley’s mega-popular “Realism Challenge” YouTube videos, The Realism Challenge contains thirty lessons demonstrating how to render mirror-like duplicates in the trompe l’oeil tradition of everything from shells, leaves, and candy bars to your very own still life arrangements. Each lesson builds off the previous one, as you’ll master essential artistic techniques like creating drop shadows, adding highlights, and building from light to dark. Learn the secrets of one of hyperrealism’s biggest stars. Come take…The Realism Challenge!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The visual arts tend to function along a spectrum, with abstract and impressionism on one side and hyperrealism on the other. This is a gross simplification, but it works well enough to foreground Mark Crilley’s book on hyperrealism.

Although I tend to skew more towards impressionism in my tastes, I’m always amazed at artists like Crilley who are able to draw what they see in such vivid, accurate detail that I can’t tell if I’m looking at a photograph or a drawing. It’s an impressive talent, and one that’s hard won through years of effort and enough reams of paper to fill a small warehouse. While you won’t reach the end of Crilley’s book a master of the form (which is not what the book sets out to do), it will put you on the right path and provide you with solid exercises and techniques for you to study.

Crilley divides the book into six different sections focusing on specific lessons, such as simulating shadows, adding color, and drawing manufactured objects. The sections contain five exercises, starting the reader off with very simple objects such as a torn sheet of paper and moving onto more detailed objects such as salt and pepper shakers and chocolate bars. While none of the objects Crilley chooses are necessarily that visually interesting, they make for excellent models for the reader to practice on. Also, Crilley makes up for it with an engaging and conversational prose style that made this fun to read.

In Summary
I don’t think I have the patience to learn how to draw in the tromp l’oeil style, but if I did, I would definitely use this book as my starting point. The lessons are simple and understandable and build upon one another. Again, you won’t close the book and be a master, but you will be well on your path to becoming one.

Content Grade: A

Released By: Watson-Guptill
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
MSRP: $19.99

Fifth ‘Seiyu’s Life’ Anime Closing Sequence Now Streaming

Fifth ‘Seiyu’s Life’ Anime Closing Sequence Now Streaming The summer series Seiyu’s Life had some fun with the last two ending sequences we had as they deal with playing with other series material, since it is about voice actors and the shows they work on, and now the fifth ending sequence has arrived. Though the main animation itself is the same from ending to ending, the in-show animation playing in the background definitely will appeal to fans as will some of the music riffs that come into play with the incarnation of this song. It’s called Plug in! To Your Ears and is performed by EARPHONES, which is made up of the voice actresses in the show with Marika Kouno, Rie Takahashi and Yuki Nagaku.

FUNimation simulcasts the series on Tuesday’s at 4:30pm ET for viewers.

Based on the manga by creators are Kenjiro Hata of Hayate the Combat Butler and voice actress Masumi Asano, the dojin Sore ga Seiyuu is making the leap to anime form with Gonzo animating the project.

The cast for the series includes Rie Takahashi as Futaba Ichinose, Marika Kōno as Rin Kohana and Yuki Nagaku as Ichigo Moesaki. The staff for the show has Hiroshi Ikehata directing it based on the series composition and scripting by Michiko Yokote and character designs by Yukari Hashimoto.

The manga, which had its first release from the circle that the two write and draw within, came out first in 2011 and have had new issues arrive with subsequent Comic Market events

Plot concept: Follow a rookie seiyu in her first steps into the world of professional voice acting! She might be unsure of herself, but Futaba Ichinose is ready to make it as a professional seiyu. She meets Ichigo Moesaki, an actress who won’t stop until she’s an idol seiyu who not only acts but also enchants audiences with singing and dancing performances. These two rookies are joined by Rin Kohana, who is already a seasoned professional who made her debut when she was 5, who has a middle school life while working as a professional seiyu.

Dragon Ball Z Season 6 Blu-ray Anime Review

Dragon Ball Z Season 6 Blu-ray Anime Review The climax that never was.

What They Say:
Humanity nears extinction as Cell achieves his deadly perfect form! Eager to display his new power, the monster proposes a tournament. If Earth produces a worthy challenger, whether it be Goku or Mr. Satan, mankind will be spared. But if not—death comes to all!

The Review:
Audio:
There are three audio tracks for this release: Dolby TrueHD English dialogue with Japanese music 5.1; Dolby TrueHD U.S. English broadcast version 2.0; and the original Japanese mono. For this viewing I listened to the English dialogue with Japanese music and it was very good. The sound was clean with no distortions or dropouts. The dialogue did stay centered from what I could tell, but here was some directionality to the sound effects. English subtitles are also provided and they showed up well without blending into the background.

Video:
As was the case with the previous season, Funimation went to painstaking lengths to clean up the show to make it HD-worthy. The overall picture quality is fine and you can see the time and care that went into upgrading it, but it also shows its age in ways that can never be addressed with a simple clean up. In terms of character designs, color palette, and just general animation style, it looks like a product of its time. This is not a bad thing in any way, but I do wonder if the hype over the HD upgrade might not set up unrealistic expectations in the fans.

Packaging:
Season Five contains thirty-three episodes spread across four Blu-ray discs. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with a slipcase that displays the same art and information as on the case proper. The front cover features Cell shooting a Kamehameha wave at a Super Saiyan Gohan with Goku in the background providing support for his son. The spine features the show’s title, season number, and episode numbers. The back cover primarily features Cell in his final form along with some screenshots, show summary, and DVD specs. While the packaging is nice enough, it doesn’t really impress me either. While I do like that Funimation is trying to be consistent with the general design scheme, I do fine the art to be rather simple, and I actually had quite a hard time reading the back due to the small font size. Ultimately, it could have been better.

Menu:
Season Five continues the general menu concept established in the first three seasons of this set. This time the menu focuses on the Hyperbaric Time Chamber and Goku and Gohan’s training within it. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, it’s a cool design that I quite like.

Extras:
There are quite a few extras on here that should please DBZ fans, especially the interviews.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
By all rights, this is how Dragon Ball Z should have ended: Gohan lies on his back, hurt but victorious, laughing at the sky. His father looks down from Heaven, happy that his son has reached his full potential, and eager to go off on more adventures, safe in the knowledge that his boy can take care of himself.

Of course, that’s not how it ended, but from a narrative standpoint, Gohan’s victory over Cell stands as a natural climax to the Z story, because the series really hasn’t been about Goku—it’s been about Gohan.

Season Six makes that abundantly clear. Cell, the android created by Dr. Gero, attains his final form thanks to Vegeta’s idiocy, and instead of just using his near Godlike power to obliterate the Earth, he creates a tournament so he can truly test his powers. He announces this on the TV and gives Goku and the other warriors seven days to prepare. Goku takes Gohan into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, where one day equals one year, to train. They return, but even with that year of training, Goku believes that he isn’t strong enough to defeat Cell. Strangely, he remains confident and calm about their impending victory.

His confidence lies in his son and the hidden power that rests in his hybrid Saiyan/Human DNA. Time and again Goku witnessed Gohan’s startling bursts of strength (which we see again thanks to flashbacks) and he knows that if Cell pushes the boy hard enough, Gohan will explode with more power than the android can handle. The question he never considers, though, is if Gohan will be able to handle it.

While the majority of this set takes place during the Cell Games, the season also focuses on Goku’s family and the world’s reaction to Cell. The android’s announcement on the television brings the entire world’s attention on him, and after the military fails to destroy him, the world’s “strongest” man, Hercule Satan, is sent to defeat the android in the tournament.

As much as I hate to say it, and as much as the true-blue DBZ fans will probably want to pillory me over it, I found Hercule one of the best parts of this season. He’s so stupid and boisterous and over-the-top that he’s unwittingly charming and funny. He also calls to mind WWE-style rasslin’, which is something I enjoyed when I was a boy. While I typically dislike the digressions the show indulges in, Hercule stood as a surprising pleasure.

In much the same way, the underlying theme of fathers and sons also worked fairly well in this season. Vegeta’s realization of his love for his son makes for a strong moment, and it contrasts well with Goku’s faith in Gohan, and that brings me back to my original point—that DBZ is actually Gohan’s story and not Goku’s. The flashbacks, the episodes that focus on Gohan’s relationship with his parents, and Goku’s decision to step down to let his son face Cell represent the climax of a narrative journey that began when Raditz kidnapped the boy way back in Season One. One could view DBZ as a bildungsroman: the story of Gohan’s journey from boy to man. His defeating Cell represents the culmination of that journey. It’s the climax where he realizes his full potential.

It’s a shame that the show didn’t end there (and I’m not just saying that because I’m getting tired of watching it). While it does contain several significant problems, concluding the series there would have provided it a sense of poignancy and closure that retroactively would have provided a greater sense of depth and purpose. Alas, the show does go on, and I will be back for Season Seven.

In Summary:
Dragon Ball Z Season Six could—and perhaps should—have been the end of the series. If one were to look at the show as Gohan’s journey, then his defeating Cell represents the culmination of his journey. Obviously, the show continues, but this season does contain some of the strongest themes in the show’s history, and sometimes it does hit genuine emotional chords. It’s not enough to make up for the pacing or the digressions, but it does provide a bit more substance for the viewer.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Inside Dragon Ball Z: Interview with Eric Vale, Inside Dragon Ball Z: Interview with Cynthia Cranz, Textless Opening and Closing Songs, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: 5 August 2014
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 685 Minutes
Video Encoding:1080i/p
Aspect Ratio:16×9

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection