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Anime DVD Reviews
Trigun - The complete Boxed Set (DVD)
You don't just watch Trigun, you *experience* it. There's no easy way to describe it. It's Cowboy Bebop turned on its ear. It's comedy, but with a complex and bizarre plot. It's a western... on another planet. It's a case of mistaken identity taken to an extreme. It's weird, wonderful, and intelligent, but in a mind-numbingly bizarre and twisted way. The characters aren't handled as realistically as Bebop, and it lacks some of the panache, and the music's not as good, but it's a damn good second to Bebop. And you gotta love a guy with that much of a taste for Doughnuts!

It's an anime western - of sorts!There's certainly no lack of action, but amazingly, when you consider the main character is supposed to be some kind of superstar with a gun, he never actually fires until the fifth episode. Yet, he manages to destroy more without a gun than with. And, as the subject of a bounty (the biggest ever), those after him to claim the reward are often more destructive than he is! Massive mayhem and considerable chaos ensue!

Urisei Yatsura
Urusei Yatsura - Volume 1 (DVD)
Known more commonly among fandom circles as "Those Obnoxious Aliens", Urusei Yatsura became Rumiko Takahashi's first mega-hit and catapulted her to superstar status in manga and anime. Highly regarded as one of the funniest and most original of all anime, the series sets lecherous Ataru Moroboshi into the arms of the one girl in the Universe he doesn't want — an Alien Space Princess in a Tiger-Striped Bikini.

We LOVE Lum!Hilarity, and potential intergalactic warfare ensue; with Takashi's now trademark bizarreness providing hours of fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Don't be fooled by imitations — this series has more fun per square inch than just about anything else out there. And luscious Lum has gone on to become one of the most recognized anime characters of all time. There's something for everyone here, and Takahashi delivers with both style and comedic timing.

Gigantor - Boxed Set 1 (Episodes 1-26)
Gigantor the Space Age Robot, he's at your command, Gigantor the Space Age Robot, his power is in your hand! How can you not sing that song any time you even make mention of the name? It's as classic as Astroboy and possibly even more fondly remembered among American audiences. Baby Boomers and Generation X alike claim this series as their first exposure to anime (until Speed Racer dominated our childhoods).

Run out and buy the Gigantor DVD!This excellent release from Rhino (those wacky guys with the cool audio compilations and who also gave us the Battle of the Planets DVD), includes the first 26 episodes, PLUS, interviews with filmmaker Fred Ladd and anime historian Fred Patten (hi Fred!), a photo gallery and lots of other cool extras. It's bigger than big. The video quality is excellent, being a new transfer from restruck 16mm original prints. This box set will take you back in time and make you laugh and enjoy cartoons again. Dig those crazy bongos, man....

Harmagedon (Collector's Series Edition DVD)
While many people may know that Katsuhiro Otomo and Rin Taro collaborated to make the recently released Metropolis, only the hardcore fans know that the two had worked together 20 years previous on a film named Harmagedon (Genma Tasien). One of the most groundbreaking anime films of all time, this pits Princess Luna and her team of Espers gathered from around the world to fight an evil bent of destroying the planet. This feature was so memorable; it was parodied years later in Project Ako.

Esper action! Things blow up! Giant robot altert!This classic anime is not for the timid - there's Earth-shattering (literally) destruction as major cities are leveled and millions killed. This may be the only movie where everyone dies and yet the good guys still win! With Rin Taro directing and Otomo providing the character designs, you can assure yourself that the action will be top notch!

Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
This movie turned out to be much better than we thought. Ignore the critics, this flick is way cool. If you've got even an inkling of the Final Fantasy series of videogames, you'll catch enough of the jokes to make the viewing more than worthwhile (is there a 'Cid' in every FF Universe?). Nevertheless, the voice-acting is dead-on, the characters are good, and the computer animation simply rocks.

Final Fantasy: CG that rocks!We've never seen CGI this good. Square goes as far as to animate a chase sequence with hand-held camera style action. As a result, there are many times where you'll swear you're watching live people, but nope, this is all computer generated. Yeah, the Gaia stuff gets a little heavy handed in the last half of the film, but the action and overall plot is as good as any Hollywood blockbuster and certainly a gigantic plus for the art of CGI films. Prove that CGI isn't just Pixar putting out the latest kid-flick and get your hands on this adult-level and very well-made animated movie that will suck you into the action and not let go until the credits roll.

Our Favorite Toys, Models and Gizmos
MechAssault for the Xbox
MechAssault for Xbox
Having for years played the RPG Mekton (before the days of 3D game systems or computers), we were very pleased to find the high-end PC game MechWarrior, and even more pleased to find this game MechAssault — because it's all the action of MechWarrior without the complexity. In this game you play the pilot of the ultimate tactical assault weapon — a 40-foot tall walking tank — or in this case, what is obviously a robot borrowed from the Macross Universe.

If only Microsoft could make Excel this much fun!What's coolest about this game is that, much like the older "Army Men" style games, you can pretty much blow up anything you can see — including anything in the environment around you, trees, buildings, bridges, streets and more can be toasted, and furthermore, the destructibility of the scenery allows it to be used as a weapon. Don't like the guy firing at you from the bridge? Blow up the bridge he's standing on! Another mech evading your fire by hiding behind a building? Blow up the building! Nothing is off limits. Oh, but don't get too close or the resulting explosions will damage you as well.

The game gets high points for single player mode, but multiplayer mode over networked Xboxes is where the biggest fun is. Very much like a Quake deathmatch, but with 100-ton robots. It just doesn't get better than that! Recommended Books:
The Art of Spirited Away
The Art of Spirited Away
by Hayao Miyazaki
Direction Hayao Miyazaki has made some amazing films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away follows in that tradition. This book takes more than one look to completely enjoy the total artistic scope of Spirited Away. The book opens up with a intro from Miyazaki, followed by a nice chapter which features watercolor pencil sketches and concept art, a treat for those of us who love pre-production artwork of character designs and detailed architectiral drawings.

Anime in an Art Book! Oink! Oink!Other chapters feature actual art used in the movie, like background paintings and animations cels of the characters. But the book features more than pretty pictures as there are interviews with the animators which give you insights into their creative process. This book is not only a must for Miyazaki fans, but anyone who loves the craft of animation film making.

Japanese for Busy People
Japanese for Busy People
Japanese for Busy People is exactly what the title says, for people who want to learn essential Japanese as quickly and as effectively as possible. Teaching both written and spoken word, the book is littered with illustrations so that you may instantly start recognizing things like No-Smoking signs or how to read "Please Keep Off the Grass". But do not be fooled into thinking this is simply a phrase-book. Oh no, this is a complete study of Japanese, but it uses phrases you'll need during the course of everyday life in Japan as examples to guide you through each lesson.

Unlike many books that purport to teach Japanese, this does not start off with simplistic ways of expression, rather, the book aims to help the reader obtain the information he or she needs by immediately using adult vocabulary and grammar patterns that are used in conversational Japanese.

The book is divided into 30 easy lessons, with a quiz at the end of each lesson to see what you've learned. What's amazing is that each lesson should only take about a 1/2 hour to memorize, which means that with about 15 devoted hours, you should be well on your way to speaking and reading Japanese. Truly Japanese for Busy People!

The Asian Grocery Store Semystified
The Asian Grocery Store Demystified
by Linda Bladholm, Jonathan Eismann
While many anime fans are eager to try and be the Iron Chef at home, the thought of navigating through an Asian grocery store is a different story. This highly illustrated book takes you by the hand and gives a clear and fascinating tour of these markets.

The author starts the book by describing the layout of an Asian grocery store in her neighborhood. She shows that there is indeed an order to these markets. "Asian markets are generally stocked according to the principles of balance, " she writes. "Hot, spicy, chili sauces and curry pastes are all in one place; salty items are together in one row, and bitter, sour or sweet things are in other sections." The authors not only sort out the cultural context of an Asian grocery store, but also does it in such a way that makes you hungry to return. Besides there is nothing better than watching anime while eating a bowl of hot noodles!

Music and Soundtrack Selections:
The Best of Anime
The Best of Anime
What's most surprising about this album to us is that it's put out by a non-Japanese company — Rhino. We've seen many compilation albums of anime title songs before, but they were strictly Japanese. It's like suddenly being hit over the head as we realize "Duh, anime really HAS gone mainstream!" Also, Rhino goes a bit further by giving us 4 tracks that are the American versions of well-known anime (admittedly, Astroboy, Speed Racer and Gigantor might feel a bit out of place next to Megazone 23).

Sing with Sailor Moon!Nevertheless, the album overall is a good sampling of what's out there in terms of different anime music. The CD features everything from the upbeat Urusei Yatsura season 1 title song to the more sublime "Sailing" (from Silent Mobius) seems to be represented. Some are too cute, but seem balanced compared to the harder rock sound from Megazone and Macross Plus. This CD is definitely one to play in the car while driving, as it's fun and you don't need to concentrate on the lyrics — besides, you're not likely to get road rage while listening to the Sailor Moon song!

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