Anime Briefs image.Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection

Paramount / USD$39.95
Rating: 4.5/5

Aeon Flux appeared more than a decade ago on MTV, where it helped to jumpstart the American anime industry. However, Peter Chungís brilliantly groundbreaking animated series is neither American animation nor Japanese, but itís hard to deny its significance on the mainstream acceptance of animation for adults. Influenced by many styles but beholden to none, Aeon Flux stands as a work by itself.

This release includes the entire series, plus the original animated shorts which premiered on Liquid Television. The episodes have been digitally remastered and restored to a state that surpasses the quality of the original broadcasts. Also welcome is a newly mixed 5.1 channel soundtrack, and in-depth commentaries with the creator, cast and crew members, two featurettes, production artwork, and more -- all of which spans three DVDs.

Aeon Flux is exceptionally well-written and exceedingly strange in a Hitchcockian fashion. This show philosophizes, but it does not preach; it features action that is anything but mindless; and it stars an amazingly sexy woman who is drawn quite differently than the softer, rounder animated heroines in other series. It may look different, but thatís because Aeon Flux is different -- and thatís a good thing. --PK

Anime Briefs image.Blame! Ver.0.11: Salvaged disc by Cibo

Anime Works / USD$19.95
Rating: 1.5/5

Blame! is the type of anime release that hurts a viewerís brain if itís seen too many times. Fans of Tsutomu Niheiís manga series by the same name (released by TOKYOPOP) will dig it, but itís hard to expect anyone else getting much out of this release. This set of animated shorts (total running time: thirty-seven minutes) was produced as more of a supplement to the manga than as a stand alone anime series. Viewers unfamiliar with the source material will be confused by this show if they manage to even watch it all. Heck, even viewers who have read the manga might be a little lost.

Set thousands of years in the future, machines have done far more than taking over the Earth -- theyíve built up a megastructure that has swallowed the entire solar system. The main character in this tale is the not-so-loquacious Killy -- one of the few remaining humans in the construct. It is his lifeís purpose to "regain access to the netsphere and restore order to the world," but for most viewers, this is only revealed in the discís excellent liner notes. This particular experimental anime series was designed as if it was created by one of the characters in the series, Cibo. Cibo is one of Killyís few allies in his quest against the machines, although not much of her background, motivation and personality is revealed within.

While itís never bad to get a t-shirt with a DVD disc, itís easily the best part of this release unless youíve read the manga. The menu, in keeping with the theme of this disc as something salvaged by a character, is almost impossible to navigate. Finding the content on the disc is a matter of making some lucky guesses, and while it may sound cool and innovative, itís actually just annoying. Itís hard to blame a company for trying something different, but this release simply doesnít work as well as it could, were it just a standard anime adaptation of a cool sci-fi story. On a positive note, after watching these shorts, most viewers should be convinced to never, EVER, do drugs. This is how bad it is, kids! --PK

Anime Briefs image.DearS: 2nd Contact

Geneon / USD$24.95
Rating: 3/5

With one look at DearS, a lot of prospective viewers likely see nothing more than Chobits with boobs. Not that there wasnít a bountiful supply of gratuitous cleavage shots in the surprisingly touching CLAMP series, or is that a gratuitous supply of bountiful cleavage shots? Either way, while they two series may have their similarities, there is enough to keep them both ideologically apart.

Takeya is slowly finding out exactly what Ren, a breathtakingly beautiful member of the alien race known as DearS, means when she calls him "master." Naturally, no self-respecting fanservice-driven romantic comedy would be complete without the appearance of the cute little sister to liven things up. Of course, when Takeyaís sister (who is not blood-related, opening even more romantic doorways for the dateless teen) finds out that heís been living with the scantily clad Ren, she is outraged by the twoís perverted "lifestyle."

This is a visually impressive series -- and that statement is not limited to the drool-inducing character designs -- with impressive animation and wonderfully vivid colors. Extras are nil, save for a non-credit ending and a nice clear case with a dual-sided cover. While the production values are high and the core plot is fun to follow, some viewers may be dissuaded from getting into DearS by its obvious similarities to other boy-meets-girl series. If youíve havenít had enough of this from Video Girl Ai, Please! Teacher, Ah! My Goddess, among others, then DearS will fit nicely into your collection. --PK

Anime Briefs image.Genshiken Vol. 2

Anime Works / USD$29.98
Rating: 4/5

This volume has more of a focus on Saki, but it still has the same amount of great humor and nice storytelling that a lot of people will be able to relate to. With Saki being one of the most enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting character to come out of the series, it seems natural that the show would start to shift the focus over to her.

The lives of the members of Genshiken might soon change, as the student council has put them on the list of clubs to cancel, but surprisingly, the only person trying to save the club is the most unlikely one. With their chairmen leaving, it might be even harder then they originally thought to keep the club together. We are treated to seeing some new members trying to join the club, and the eventful process involved with this. Saki is now a member as well, as she gives video games a shot in order to try to get through to her otaku boyfriend. The last little story that they throw out at us is the experience of model building, and how it is much more than just making a simple toy. Additionally, the club members are interested in meeting Sasaharaís little sister, who is about as opposite from the members of Genshiken as you could possibly get.

Like the previous volume, Genshiken does a great job at showing off true fandom, and like the first volume, itís hilarious. --JL

Anime Briefs image.Magical Meow Meow Taruto Vol. 4: Real Magic

Bandai / USD$29.98
Rating: 3/5

Iím always happy to find an anime that I can enjoy along with my little brother and sister. Magical Meow Meow Taruto is one of those series, and Iím sad to see it end as its mix of magic, cat-people and light-hearted cuteness appealed to both me and my younger siblings.

Taruto is a kitten who may just be the long lost princess of Ganache, a magical world ruled by cats. Stuck in the human world, only a few other cats believe that Taruto is the legendry princess. When some cats from Byoh, Ganacheís enemy, come to the human world to try and catnap Taruto, her claims to royalty suddenly seem a lot more believable.

The final three episodes of the series are entertaining, but a lot of explanation is crammed into the very last episode, some of it coming totally out of left field. The show does a good job of giving everyone in the very large cast a moment to shine, and most of the major plot points are cleared up.

The animation for the show is extremely bright and cheery, along with the music and voice acting in both English and Japanese. If the show wasnít cute enough, there are also music videos of the three main Japanese voice actresses dressed up as their characters and singing songs from the series.

If you have a thing for cat-girls or just for cuteness in general, than you would probably enjoy Magical Meow Meow Taruto. Even if you donít, itís still a nice series to watch with younger kids, who may get more out of it than you. --SF

Anime Briefs image.Planetes Vol. 2

Bandai / USD$29.95
Rating: 4.5/5

Planetes is easily one of the finest modern science fiction series available today in any medium, although the best parts of the show have nothing to do with the fact that the main characters are in space. What makes this a must-own title is the superb character development in following the lives of a small band of astronauts orbiting the Earth. These arenít just any astronauts, however; theyíre space-based garbage collectors. Set not too far off into the future, it is the duty of our heroes to essentially pick up debris, of which a dangerous volume has accumulated since mankind first made it into orbit.

This series is funny, heartwarming, exciting, and if the authors want it to be, itís also a tearjerker. So much drama is packed into the confined living spaces of the protagonists that it makes it hard to expect the series to maintain such a high level of quality. Two discs into the show, and itís still going strong, so hereís to hoping that they continue the momentum.

In addition to a fine storyline and excellent writing, Planetes exhibits top-notch animation and effects, relatively realistic zero-g animation, and an excellent soundtrack. Bandai has been treating its releases of the show as well as it deserves by putting out a two-disc special edition with a whole slew of extra features. Thereís a commentary track, an audio drama, an actual interview with NASAís orbital debris section scientists (yes, such a department DOES exist), an interview with the English cast, and a CG model of orbital debris. It doesnít get much better than this. Even viewers who tend to shy away from sci-fi will appreciate this series. Itís not about the spaceships, people living on the moon, or space trash -- itís about the people. --PK

Anime Briefs image.Scrapped Princess Vol. 4

Bandai / USD$29.98
Rating: 4/5

I canít believe that Animefringe has passed over Scrapped Princess for so long, because this show certainly deserves some face time around here.

In a show that has had a good number of nice twists, volume four drops the bomb with the biggest surprise thus far. We finally get to learn about the history of their world and why exactly our three heroes are fighting. Pacifica, Shannon and Raquel are traveling to the capital to save the lives of the individuals that live there and to confront the Gods. After the confrontation, the three get separated with no idea where the others could be, and to top things off, Pacifica doesnít remember who she is. While sheís able to take up residence with a man living there, considering whom she is, it doesnít seem like life will ever be able to stay that easy for her.

I just started watching this show recently, and I canít put it down. A great story on an epic scale, with interesting and likable characters and a quality production, they all make Scrapped Princess a top notch show. Hopefully, it can keep up this pace for the rest of the series, and if it can do that, then no one should miss this show. --JL

Anime Briefs image.Stellvia Vol. 7: Foundation VII

Geneon / USD$24.98
Rating: 3/5

With only one more volume to go in Stellvia, this volume's collection of episodes begins the set-up of the last mission, as the characters discover what the Cosmic Fracture really is (I won't spoil it, but it does have a connection to the Second Wave and the Great Mission), and what they need to do to repair it and save humanity, along with the entire universe! Only naturally, Shima and Kouta are the only ones who can do it, while piloting the mecha/spaceship Infi. Unfortunately, Shima is having a crisis, as she realizes that she will never see the world exactly the same way as Kouta. It does sound rather petty when written down like that, but until now, Shima has been side-by-side with Kouta, understanding him and the world around her perfectly. What can I say? There is no fear like the fear of the unknown.

Friends fight, and some angry words are exchanged. Rinna acts like her own young age and can't understand why her parents, high ranking Foundation Ultima members, now on the Stellvia, aren't giving her enough attention. (Nevermind that they're working on a plan to save the universe.) Happily, this volume ends on a high note, with reconciliation among the girls and a confused Kouta. Some people might find it awkward that the whole Cosmic Fracture emergency crisis seems to take a back seat to troubled interpersonal affairs among Shima and her friends, but it just goes to reflect the type of show that Stellvia is: high school romance and comedy in space.

There are only three episodes on this DVD. Although the volume ends at the perfect point, it does feel rather short as a whole, while the scenes where the cast members are angry at each other seem to drag along. I am eager to see the final volume of Stellvia, and how Shima will save the day, but I think I'll rent this last one, thanks. --JC

Anime Briefs image.Yumeria Vol. 1: Enter the Dreamscape

ADV / USD$29.98
Rating: 3/5

Straight up, there isnít anything particularly new or original here, and itís not particularly well scripted either. Following the classic mold of the perverted guy suddenly surrounded by buxom babes, Yumeria tells the tale of Tomokazu Mikuri, a generically perverted adolescent male on the eve of his sixteenth birthday. Heís never been paid any particular attention by the young ladies in his life, at least not until he awakens from a dream in a strange, green-yellow fantasy land, with a young girl beside him in bed. Her name is Mone, and true to form, this is the only word that she seems to say -- at least to Tomokazu. Soon, the newly turned sixteen year old finds himself surrounded by a whole host of pretty young things, all of whom find themselves in his dream world, wearing scantly battle suits and doing away with random and unexplained monsters.

Despite an attempted twist with the dream gimmick, itís all still pretty generic, and there isnít any apparent sense or focused direction. For the moment, however, Yumeria is mildly entertaining, perhaps more so than it deserves to be. The animation is of a respectable standard, and although they are nothing new in themselves, the character types and designs are likeable enough. Unfortunately, the overall design of the dream world, as well as the scripting of these segments, is a substandard waste of potential. This first volume of Yumeria finds most of its entertainment value in straightforward perverted-adolescent comedy moments, and while this is fun for four episodes, subsequent volumes will be a complete waste of time unless a sense of direction and some more original gags are found in a hurry. Unfortunately, with a total of twelve episodes in the series, the outlook doesnít appear to be good. --TH

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