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Archive for October 2005

Street Fighter Alpha Generations Review

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Here we go as promised =o)

Genre: Martial Arts Combat
Director: Ikuo Kuwana
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
Duration: 45 Minutes Approx.
Production Creation: 2005

Plot Synopsis

Pausing on his quest to become a master of the martial arts, Ryu returns home to pay homage to the memory of his old master, Gouken. Gouken was killed many years ago by Gouki, a twisted user of the forbidden Dark Hadou, a method of converting dark karma, anger or bad chi into an immensely destructive force.

Drawn inexorably toward a showdown with his master’s killer, Ryu soon discovers that as powerful as the Dark Hadou is, it will only be his street fighting skills and sheer determination that will allow him to have any chance against the demonic Gouki.

The Review

Some six years later we finally arrive at this, the follow on to Street Fighter Alpha, a tighter sequel than its predecessor in many ways, it will still only appeal to fans of the genre, and those fans? Well dive in.

The story follows the exploits of perennial Street Fighter hero Ryu in his quest to become the ultimate fighter, and in doing so to also defeat the demonic martial artist Gouki, who murdered his old master. Thankfully, because the scope of the story is relatively small, it all fits nicely within the forty-five minute running time, which to be honest I wanted to be a lot more. The reason why this disappointed me was because I wanted the production team to explore more of the Street Fighter Alpha mythos as there is still a lot of creative potential waiting to be tapped, especially in regards to the other fighters from the popular beat em up series and their respective stories.

Although such an approach would have resulted, more than likely, in a less focused feature, I’m sure that they have learnt their lessons from the cameo crammed Street Fighter Alpha anime. Which is why I’m thankful in some ways that this newest OVA is nice and compact as it feels likes a breath of fresh air in some ways. As the short running time coupled with the tight story feels a world away from Alpha’s somewhat wasted potential, with its silly sci-fi lab experiment storyline, pointless character cameos and horrid liberties taken with the Street Fighter canon.

Quite thankfully, this is not the case with Generations, as the story itself mainly focuses on the history of the Dark Hadou and provides some good insight into the histories of Ryu’s and Gouki’s respective masters without ever really straying from the Street Fighter canon.

Like Alpha, we obviously get the token over the top fighting scenes, complete with trademark moves and shouts, but they remain pretty much top notch as they always have, this time however with cool blurring effects and perspective shots for even the most basic of moves. In comparison, some of Alpha’s fights like positively toned down when compared to those found in Generations. Yet as good and explosive as these fights are, for a fighting fan, there simply isn’t enough of them, and only the final fight between Gouki and Ryu, really approaches the pulse pounding climax of the two-on-one climatic showdown of the Street Fighter II movie.

In terms of the characters, Ryu obviously gets a whole load of screen time, but also so does Gouki . In particular, we get some good Gouki back story as we see him as a young martial artist doing his thing, but being chided by his master for using the Dark Hadou when there are reasons why he shouldn’t. Naturally I don’t want to say anymore than that, but it is indeed a cool thing for a Street Fighter fan to finally watch the evolution of the demon and see how he became so twisted and merciless.

Old time Alpha favourites Ken and Sakura also appear as supporting characters but don’t really spend much time in the limelight, Ken fans especially will have a hard time swallowing his limited role in this feature, but the less said about that the better.

I guess that what I’m trying to get out is, that as much fun as I found Generations, and as interesting as the back stories of Gouki and the Dark Hadou were, I just wanted more. As I said there is just so much of the Street Fighter Alpha mythos to explore and tap it’s untrue, and after six years of waiting for an Alpha sequel, I feel a little short changed by what Street Fighter Alpha Generations has put on the table. Ultimately a tasty morsel that leaves you hungry for more.

Recommended to Street Fighter fans and fighting fans, but lets just hope that we don’t have to wait another six years for another Street Fighter Alpha feature.

Ratings Summary

Animation: B
Art: B
Music: B-
Content: C+

Overall: B-

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

The fights although short, do tend to get quite violent with a fair amount of blood (particularly at the start of the feature). There is however no swearing whatsoever or sexual factors to worry about so therefore this is watchable by those aged 12 years plus.

If you liked this why not try…

Street Fighter II V TV Series – Manga Entertainment
Street Fighter Alpha – Manga Entertainment
Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie – Manga Entertainment

NB: You will not BELIEVE the amount of times I typed ‘Akuma’ instead of ‘Gouki’!

Written by bitsnark

October 31, 2005 at 8:33 pm

Blood + TV Series

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Whoa. Just watching the early fansubbed episodes of this series has me hungering for it in a big way.

Ever since I watched the Blood OVA(the last vampire, review forthcoming BTW), I just wanted more. This was especially true considering the 45 minute running time, didnt allow much exposition of this bloody, visceral world. So imagine my glee when it was actually announced that Production IG, were going ahead with a double season, 52 episode TV series.

I was stoked. And after seeing the first couple of episodes, i’m now ecstatic. The character designs (way different from the OVA) and just the overall style of it all makes it look like a strong series already. I really dont want to say anything more, (at least until I review the damn thing which wont be for a long while yet) but trust me it’s all good.

Enough rambling though, take a look at the official site: http://www.productionig.com/

I really, I *really* hope this gets a good license.

Already on my ‘To Buy’ list! =o)

Written by bitsnark

October 28, 2005 at 12:05 am

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

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Quick note: This is a review of the Manga Entertainment UK DVD release, and such, is *NOT* the edited US Sony version that was floating about for years before.

Genre: Martial Arts Combat
Director: Gisaburo Sugii
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
Duration: 96 Minutes approx
Production Creation: 1994

Plot Synopsis

Based on the popular hit video game of the same name, Street Fighter II shows us a future where the world is under threat from the evil shadowlaw organisation and it’s nihilistic commander, M Bison. M Bison hopes to rule the world by turning powerful warriors, known as Street Fighters, into his loyal subjects. Ryu and Ken, two best friends, are possibly the two most powerful fighters in the world and as such, find themselves targeted by Bison for this very reason.

Something stirs inside of Ryu when his longtime friend Ken is captured on the eve of their reunion. With a new sense of purpose and drive Ryu, along with your other favourite characters, prepare for the final showdown with Bison and his henchmen.

The Review

Okay, name exactly how many anime productions or for the matter, Hollywood movies, based upon video games that turned out to be any good. One or two maybe? That’s perhaps being a bit generous don’t you think? And so it was with this same apathy that I greeted Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.

Let’s start from the bottom. For a straightforward martial arts anime, Street Fighter II fulfills it’s vocation nicely enough. There are plenty of fights on offer, each containing a variety of combat styles and bone-crunching moves. Importantly, each of the characters in this anime actually look the part and closely resemble their video game counterparts, moveset and all. So at the very least, that should keep the people who came to see this movie off the back of the video game pretty happy.

Indeed, there would seem to be a lot of content for the fans of the video game to recognise here. Their favourite characters pounding the absolute snot out of each other whilst screaming the different names of their special movies at the top of their voice is just one such recognisable trait of the series. Also, for all of those die-hard Street Fighter fans who had posters of Chun Li plastered on their walls, there’s even a bit of nudity and fan-service in it for you too.

Now that the loyal fanbase have stopped reading this review and have gone off to watch the anime, i’ll turn my attentions to the anime fan that actually cares about the little things like plot and characterisation.

As far as both plot and characterisation go, they’re pretty thin on the ground. Cookie-cutter is the perfect term to use here as everything is exactly how you would expect it to be.

The characters are painfully one-dimensional, and as such match up nicely to the wafer thin plot on offer. There are no surprises here, no plot twists, no convoluted endings, hidden meanings or anything like that, but then again there was never meant to be, as whatever plot/characterisation exists only as a vehicle with which to support the fight sequences.

What we have here is simply just a dumb action anime, good only for it’s fight scenes, which thankfully it does quite well. You get to see Ryu and Ken throw their fireballs, execute their Hurricane Kicks and basically give Street Fighter fans everything that they wanted to see from their favourite characters.

The art and animation are both quite good and allow the many fight sequences to become very action packed affairs with a good amount of detail, intensity and fluidity. The soundtrack of the version I watched apparently differs greatly from the original Japanese audio track. For some reason the Japanese audio track was not available on my copy and as such I can’t verify this point, however, most people have complained that the track composed for the Western release is unsuitable. Personally, I think that the heavy metal and techno style suits this anime very well and it accompanies the fighting scenes perfectly.

To be honest if you come at this anime with high expectations, you will be disappointed, however, for those of you looking for a good martial arts anime to while away ninety or so minutes, you could certainly find many more worse examples of the genre around.

Ratings Summary

Animation: C+
Art: C
Music: B-
Content: C-

Overall: C

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

Even though this is based on the video game of the same name, it certainly is not suitable for that same audience. There’s a fair amount of blood, quite a bit of heavy swearing and some nudity. Suitable only therefore for those aged 15+.

If you liked this why not try…

Street Fighter II V TV Series – Manga Entertainment
Street Fighter Alpha – Manga Entertainment
Fatal Fury: Double Impact – Pioneer Animation
Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture – Pioneer Animation

Written by bitsnark

October 27, 2005 at 9:05 pm

Street Fighter Alpha: Generations

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Well the time is approaching, I should get my copy through the post sometime early next week, so brace yourselves for a fanboy review! Just kidding, but to whet your appetite for it, here is a review for the Street Fighter II movie released by Manga Entertainment.

Enjoy ^-^

Written by bitsnark

October 27, 2005 at 9:03 pm

Not enough Naruto filler? Well there is more on the way!

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Popular Naruto fansite, narutofan.com, is reporting that in a recent speech, the head honcho of Studio Pierrot (the guys who produce the series) said that we can expect another 27 episodes or so of filler before we start to hit the manga goodness again.

Great, I get to see more silly episodes of Naruto acting like a complete jerk, while the production values go down the drain.

Also is it just me, or is Naruto’s idiotic nature accentuated in these filler episodes?

(sigh) Roll on Spring 2006.

Written by bitsnark

October 25, 2005 at 12:01 am

Hellsing Review

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There’s never a good priest around when you need one is there?

Genre: Vampire Action Horror
Director: Yasunori Urata
Distributor: Pioneer Animation
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 13 episodes total
Production Creation: 2002

Plot Synopsis

Based on the popular manga, serialised in Japanese magazine Young King Ours, the Hellsing organisation is a long running operation that defends the British Isles and her majesty from the threat of the undead. The leader of the organisation, Integra Wingates Hellsing, is a determined and driven woman, fixated on the destruction of the impure undead.

Ironically, through a special connection with Integra, an extremely powerful vampire known as Alucard, is in the employ of the Hellsing organisation. With powers far beyond the comprehension of man or vampire, Alucard is an unstoppable force, determined to rid the world of those undead he considers to be inferior or impure.

One night, Seras Victoria a member of London’s special police squad D11, is fatally wounded during a confrontation between Alucard and a vampire. Alucard offers her the choice to die or to become a vampire. Realising that she doesn’t want to die, Victoria chooses to join the ranks of the undead. Struggling to control her newfound bloodlust and maintain what shreds of humanity remain, Victoria Seras must now deal with what she has become, and learn what she can from her powerful new master.

The creatures of the night have found their worst enemy…. one of their own.

The Review

Vampire shows in anime, have been shown to be a mixed bag. For every excellent Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, there’s a shoddy Vampire Wars just waiting to steal sixty minutes of your life.

Fortunately not being the latter, Hellsing’s popularity in North America, can be attributed to three things: guns, vampires and style. I think I can already hear the yawning of jaded otaku now, but hang with it as Hellsing is quite simply the most stylish and enjoyable anime to arrive on western shores since Cowboy Bebop.

Alucard, the insanely powerful vampire in the employ of the Hellsing organisation is one of the most striking characters to grace an anime show. With his long red coat, period red hat and of course, two custom made handguns, Alucard is quite the suave, stylish looking individual. What makes him refreshing and different from his vampiric counterparts in other anime, is simply his attitude.

Alucard is an anti-hero. At the core he is almost completely evil, a demon tamed only by his sworn service to his human master. He despises other vampires who he considers to be weak and unable to control their powers in the correct way, not to mention, the man-made vampires which really draw his ire. Making Alucard angry, is simply one thing that should not be done at any cost. This is perhaps the only real drawback with Alucard, because he is so powerful you never feel like he is in any danger and that he will defeat any enemy he is put up against.

Alucard can be shot, cut to pieces, blown up, beaten down, you name it, but he just keeps coming back for more, often with a sarcastic or witty retort in tow. Wielding his twin handguns and a bewildering range of supernatural abilities (such as killing vampires by just thrusting his hand into them), Alucard is more than a force to be reckoned with, he’s near enough invincible. As good as he is though, he still needs a foil, somebody on the opposite side who is just as powerful to counter balance him and since he doesn’t really have this, it makes the anime unfortunately more predictable as a result.

Alucard’s best moments tend to be not when he’s blowing the creatures of the night to pieces, but instead when he is interacting with the other two main characters of the show, Integra and Victoria Seras. Written as an extremely strong female character, very possibly stronger than the principal male characters, Integra is the hard faced femme fatale of the show. An ice-maiden if there ever was one, Integra is the leader of the Hellsing organisation and Alucard’s human master. Alucard and Integra often clash and have tense confrontations where you get the feeling that a lot more is going on than what is actually being said. They each dislike one another in various ways, yet they are working together for a common goal, and as such you get impression that their relationship is standing on the edge of knife, and is extremely strained. It’s this dynamic that keeps the relationship between Alucard and Integra always taut, yet profoundly interesting.

Victoria Seras, perhaps the only somewhat angsty cast member to be found in this show, is constantly looking to Alucard for advice as a mentor as she is getting used to her new form. A bond of sorts does exist between the two and as the series progresses, you see this bond develop. It’s quite amusing to watch the interaction between the two, as Seras is struggling with her newfound form and desires, yet Alucard ever the sadistic teacher, is forever chipping away at her humanity and, as he likes to put it, is telling her to become something ‘more’ than what she used to be.

The bad guys too are for the most part well constructed characters. Alexander Anderson, the manic catholic priest that lives for Alucard’s destruction, is an intense and driven individual that always manages to play off Alucard’s relatively calm and cool demeanour very well in the scenes that they are in. Even Incognito, a character that was not featured in the manga but was created for TV show, possesses a menacing and disturbing presence. He is truly an evil individual with no sense of morality or mercy, and as you can well imagine, when him and Alucard get together on screen, the sparks do indeed fly.

Moving on, Hellsing’s plot from what I can tell, does stray quite considerably from the later stages of the manga. Some critics have said that this was to the show’s detriment, but I disagree. The plot, whilst not particularly convoluted, does a good job of holding the interest of the viewer over the course of the thirteen episodes.

A lot of the events that occur within the show and the relationships of the characters that are intertwined with these events, are explained quite well. With the exception of the ending, which leaves a few loose ends, I thought the plot was well-thought out. As an anime show, what makes Hellsing fairly unique, especially when compared to other vampire shows of the genre, is it’s mixture of catholic religious overtones, modern day action scenes and gunplay. It really is an odd combination to describe, yet it works really well in establishing this dark vision of present-day Great Britain.

As a show, Hellsing’s only real weakness comes in the form of it’s fluctuating visual quality. Whereas the art is coherently adept and detailed throughout, the animation doesn’t quite fare as well. Comparing different episodes, you can see that the animation suffers a fair bit. Movements that were fairly smooth in one scene, lose their integrity in another as they become jerky, stunted imitations of the smooth movement seen before. Thankfully, the animation quality does stay fairly coherent in the well done action sequences that occur throughout Hellsing, as Alucard and his various enemies clash and duel with impressive grace and visual flair.

Hellsing’s sense of style extends also to it’s musical score too. The music itself is a strange, yet quite satisfying fusion of Doors-esque chilled out tunes and heavier Jazz influenced serenades. Not since Cowboy Bebop, have I heard a soundtrack this well done and just well… so darn cool. Certainly this would be one official soundtrack worth the pick up. One note of praise must also be given to the English dub that was recorded for this release, as it is one of the best dubs that I have listened to.

Thankfully just about everybody puts on a superb performance. Crispin Freeman, puts on an excellent low vocal tone for his turn as Alucard. The reason why however, I feel it is superior to the Japanese track, is that this is a show set in Great Britain, and as such, it just doesn’t feel right to hear Japanese voices from English characters. It’s a good thing though that *just* about all the English characters have convincing English accents. There are one or two bad accents in there (mostly from minor characters), but on the whole, Pioneer have managed to get it just right.

Hellsing in conclusion, is a show that I suppose you will love or hate depending on your view toward anime that tries to be ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’. Whilst it is sort of geared toward the sort of audience that might like the Hollywood film Blade, or other such action driven vampire shows, it nevertheless has a deceptively deep cast of characters and a compelling story that needs to be appreciated. Not since Cowboy Bebop though (and I know I keep mentioning this), have I seen a show so self-assuredly stylish and just plain cool. It’s no wonder it did so well in North America.

Ratings Summary

Animation: B-
Art: B
Music: A
Content: A-

Overall: A-

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

Okay where to start. There’s lot’s of violence, heavy swearing, some adult situations and an absolute ton of blood splattered throughout. Suitable for those 18+ only.

If you liked this why not try…

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Urban Vision
Nightwalker – Central Park Media
Trinity Blood – Funimation Productions

Written by bitsnark

October 24, 2005 at 11:40 pm

Minmay to be played in new English Macross dub by…Mari Iijima?!?

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Wow.

Macross is one of my mainstaying loves of anime and when I heard that ADV had picked up the rights from AnimEigo, I was kinda dreading the eventuality of an English dub. Well, they now have Mari Iijima, the popular J-pop artist and original seiyuu of Lynn Minmay in the original Japanese Macross TV broadcast, reprising her role for the English dub.

Ok now this sets two big ass precedents. Number one being that this is the first time ever that a voice actor/actress has recorded a performance in both English and Japanese, and number two being that it happened TWENTY THREE years after the original broadcast!

Well colour me knocked for six.

Check out AnimeonDvd’s article regarding the announcement http://www.animeondvd.com/news/pr.php?pr_view=597

Look at the pic of Ms. Iijima too, talk about aging gracefully! ^-^

Written by bitsnark

October 22, 2005 at 8:38 pm

Trigun movie on the way?

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In the November issue of NEO (the UK’s Asian entertainment magazine) an interview was conducted with one of the co-founding members of Madhouse Studios (X, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust). In the interview Masao Maruyama confirmed that we can expect to see a Trigun movie in roughly two years time and that it is currently being worked on as we speak.

Wow, didnt see THAT coming. Still, I loved Trigun and so I hope we just dont get a reanimated cut and shut job consisting of scenes from the TV series, as is sometimes the case with movies that succeed their TV origins.

Here’s hoping.

Written by bitsnark

October 21, 2005 at 7:40 am

King Of Fighters: Another Day

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Yup, it seems as if SNK’s 2D fighting opus is finally getting it’s own anime. Disregarding the mediocre Fatal Fury movie and OAV, the fact that production is being handled by Production I.G. (Ghost In The Shell, Blood) at least suggests that the production values will be decent.

Because of my love for fighting games, i’m generally a bit of sucker for anime based on them. If anyone else is, be sure to cut and paste this link for more info from Anime News Network:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=5924

Written by bitsnark

October 20, 2005 at 10:47 pm

English translated Naruto games…. Bring em on!

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Thats the great thing about shows that get licensed, not only do you get the show itself but you also a get a range of ass-kicking merchandise too, whether it’s models, OST’s or other such bits and pieces.

Thankfully, with blockbuster ninja anime Naruto now airing on Cartoon Network (wait for the unedited DVD’s if you want the FULL Naruto experience), we also get the range of Naruto games which, unlike many of their anime spawned counterparts are actually pretty good.

You have the Naruto Geikito Ninja Tasien series on Gamecube which is the one i’m most familiar with. This game is basically for up to four players at once as they duke it out as their favourite shinobi complete with all their trademark powers and mannerisms from the series. Great fun, especially in multiplayer. I had the second installment of this for my Gamecube as a Japanese import, couldnt understand a word of it, but the multiplayer goodness shone through to make it one of my most played games for the ole’ cube.

So that the games stay in continuity with the CN aired series, the games are being released in chronological order. So those of you who have been watching Naruto on it’s Japanese broadcast, might want to save some dough for the upcoming FORTH installment that hits the land of the rising sun this November.

A good place to order it from (or at least the place i;m going to order it from anyway) is http://www.lik-sang.com. They ship from Hong-Kong and seem pretty reliable.

Then we have the Narutimate Hero Naruto games on PS2, which i’m less familiar with although they appear to be more story driven affairs, with a better use of environments then the Gamecube games. Interesting, but the one i’m looking forward to the most is the GBA Naruto RPG… Hmmm with that coming out, Nintendogs, Advance Wars Dual Strike and Castlevania, I really am running out of reasons not to buy a DS. ^-^

Still Naruto games are headed stateside so yay for that, but it would be nice if some of these games would get a European release…. (hint, hint) =o)

Written by bitsnark

October 19, 2005 at 9:21 pm

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