Here’s What I Got From the ARIA Kickstarter!

Hi there! How are you doing?

A couple weeks ago my life was super hectic (and it still somewhat is), but right when my ARIA Kickstarter backer awards had arrived on my doorstep in a big unsuspecting package, you already know that my week only got better from there. I had torn into the unusually large RightStuf box and immediately plugged in the first Blu-ray to hear new English dub (which is fantastic BTW).

Suddenly, I found myself at ease with everything that was going on in my life at the time, and I spent the next couple of relaxing nights enjoying the rippling canals of Neo Venezia and the charming allure of the acoustic guitar. From the tender voice cast (well, maybe except for Aika, teehee) to the slow-moving episodic nature of Aria‘s storytelling, I briefly covered my thoughts on Aria‘s healing qualities in my September OWLS post. You can check it out here in case you missed it (and yes, I’ll be getting around to answering your comments, I swear!)

Anyway, you’re probably just here to see all the neat stuff I got as a backer of Nozomi’s Kickstarter campaign, so on to the goodies!

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Starting with the box, here’s an image of the slipcover (O-card?) and the chipboard box. Although the design for the slipcover is, like, really basic, I feel it better represents the show than all the loud, bright, and colorful character art we’ve seen again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL of Aria‘s art, but not every episode of the series is as cheery as its characters. Sometimes the clouds roll in, the sea lulls, and the characters have to deal with the stirring emotions in their hearts. (Speaking of, the last time I did one of these was way back during NIS America’s A Lull in the Sea release, another excellent sea-side title to make LitaKino jealous, might I add, haha!)

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And here’s the backside of each. While the slipcover is a little flimsy for my liking, what with being just a piece of cardstock wrapped around a sturdy chipboard box, I’m glad that the release came with it anyway. IDK, it just completes the clean, simple aesthetic that I live for. Also, I believe someone mentioned that the art on the chipboard box was created just for this release, which would explain why the characters look so darn good compared to some of the older artwork out there. Not sure if that’s true, but I love the complimentary orange and brown sunsets against the solid aquatic blue sea!

Man, they sure did go overboard in making sure this box was covered in art! That’s alright–I’m a sucker for background art anyway. Here are the top and side spines respectively, and they continue to contrast wonderfully with their bright orange and yellow hues against the rich blue exterior and logo.

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This is the paper insert for the first Blu-ray of Aria, which contains the entire first series—Aria The Animation—on three discs that mirror the basic cover design. It features the three lovely ladies that comprise the main cast of this first season. I appreciate the full image wrap around design, as well as how the art includes more of Neo Venezia’s gorgeous architecture. Once the other seasons are finished, this’ll be one nice set with wonderful continuity in its design!

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And here’s the interior, AKA the art you see when you open the case. Set against gray clouds and the first snowfall of the season, this art perfectly depicts how the series concludes with the onset of the wintry New Year’s celebration.

IMG_7474.jpg The set also contains 5 art cards featuring poster art for each season (designated on the back) and a sticker set. Not sure what I’ll do with the stickers, but it’s nice to get artwork not only for the first season, but the other ones to come—you can see the quality increase as the years go on (not to say that any of this art is weak)!

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We’ve also got a blue and white Aria-themed stationary set and a mug. While they’re not necessarily physical extras that I desire, the mug is really nice, and currently it’s being used to hold business cards and letters from artists I’ve purchased from either on Twitter or at conventions! (Also psyched because the simplistic design I voted for won!)

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We’re not done yet, though—for some reason, patches are still a thing, so the set includes the logos for the three main gondola companies, as well as magnets for each company’s feline mascot. Again, not sure what to do with these, haha, but I’m glad the patches are logos and not characters. As for the magnets, hmmm, I’m sure I can find something metal to stick them to. 😛

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Last but not least is this: the giant-ass lithograph. You see, when I first pledged for this award, I assumed that the numbered lithograph would be the size of your standard art card, much like most limited edition releases have. Well, Aria and Nozomi Entertainment are both exceptionally extra, and art this gorgeous couldn’t just stay rolled up in a cardboard tube and abandoned in my closet. Soooo, I cleared off my wall and framed it, and you know what, it looks pretty damn official, doesn’t it?

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Although the print doesn’t have as high a color contrast as it should to properly show off the vibrant, sparkling blue water, it’s still nice to have something that is exclusive—it’s one more thing that makes paying like $200 worth it as a backer. And 1555/1600? Nice!

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So here’s everything that came in the package! This DOES NOT include the big fancy hardback art book, as well as the first part of the second season: Aria The Natural. Those will be shipped as soon as they’re completed, and if you’d like, I can probably review the art book and give you a glimpse into all that it contains once it arrives (EXCITED!). But yeah, if you pledged for Nozomi’s Kickstarter of Aria The Animation at the Prima Plus tier, this is exactly what you would’ve gotten! As a bonus, I’ve listed my real name in the on-disc credits (the backer wall), so good luck searching for me once the standard release is ready to be sold!

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2,648 backers pledged $595,676 to help bring this project to life, and I’m stoked to have been a part of this little slice of anime history. Nozomi did SUCH a nice job updating us via campaign emails, including pre- and post-production notes, videos from the Englisih VAs, and mini clips of the dubbing process—and to think it’s not even halfway done yet since they’ve still got season three and the OVAs to go! Personally, I found it more enticing than the Escaflowne campaign by Funimation if you participated in that, NAMELY because the actors felt more like friends we helped support rather than “stars.” Maybe that’s just me, but regardless, I’ve enjoyed both campaigns, and I’ve already set out for the next one—Emma: A Victorian Romance!

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Did you participate in the Aria Kickstarter, and if so, how far did you pledge, and what did you think about it? Let me know! If you’ve got any thoughts on the backer awards or campaign itself, we can talk about it in the comments together! Again, in case you missed it, you can read about how I took life slowly with Aria in my OWLS post. You guys have no idea how much I appreciate each and every comment, like, share, and conversation we have, even if it does seem like I’m MIA all the time. I’ve got some more posts planned, including thoughts about the Summer Simulcast season, as well as some other anime-related experiences, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you as well. Thanks so much for reading, and until next time this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Naka-Kon 2018 Experience/Haul!

Hi everyone!

Since 2015, I’ve gone to this midwestern U.S. anime convention called Naka-Kon. That makes this my fourth year, which is kinda hard to believe! It’s a small convention, estimating around 8,000 attendees in 2015, but the population has grown exponentially in the past few years. Soon, I fear that the convention hall itself won’t be large enough to contain all our anime madness!

Anyway, this year was much less stressful compared to years past. Why? Well, I’m one of those eager youngsters that insists on meeting with English voice actor guests. I keep it brief, but try to walk away with a signature on one (or more if I’m lucky) of my Blu-rays, a picture, and delightful, positive memories to cherish. Typically, I’ll know (or at least recognize), say, 6/7 of the VAs—and you can bet that I’d try to meet with all of them if I could! At this year’s Naka, however, I only really knew (and loved) one or two roles per each voice AKA not enough to validate standing in line for a couple hours, sadly.

So I told myself to limit my VA line-standings to just one, and amp up my cosplay game so that I could spend time taking more pics and having fun. After 2017 when I cosplayed Mika from Seraph of the End, I didn’t realize what great fun cosplaying could be—SO MANY PEOPLE WANTED A PICTURE EITHER OF OR WITH ME (which makes me so happy and thankful), yet it was a tad overwhelming given how I had my own agenda of rushing from one VA line or panel to another. The guest line-up happened to work well with my intentions this year, and it all worked out swimmingly!

The unintentional VA-grab theme for this year must’ve been Cowboy Bebop (last year was Final Fantasy XV), as both Steve Blum (Spike Spiegal) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Julia, also ADR Director) were both guests this year. While I love Bebop just as much as the next guy, I knew that his lines and panels would be crazy full, so I skipped out to avoid the hassle. Also, I only knew him as Spike and Todo from Code Geass. WE DID, however, manage to squeeze in to a huge panel hosted by Steve and Mary, as well as Ian Sinclair and Wendy Powell. I count my lucky stars that my sister persisted on us sitting down, as it was really cool to hear all these famous voices casually talking in one room!

As for Mary Elizabeth . . . SHE’S THE FREAKIN’ MAJOR FROM Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex!!!! If you’ve been following me for even the past year, you’ll know that GitS has quickly worked its way up my favorites list following my marathon of the franchise just one year ago from now (happy reunion!). She’s also my QUEEN, Cornelia li Britannia from Code Geass!! Long story short, she was my must-meet for 2018, and though I was only allotted one signing (as I wanted a picture for my second), she kindly signed my DVD copy of Stand Alone Complex, of which, fun fact, I had picked up JUST for this con! Our transient meeting—where we chatted about technology’s advancements and  possibilities, the internet, and finding our own path in this digital age—was brief, but one that will stick with me for a long time!

While at the con, I popped in on several of Xanthe Huynh’s panels. I only really knew her as Love Live!‘s Hanayo, Yuki Yuna‘s titular Yuki Yuna, PMMM Rebellion’s Nagisa, and A Lull in the Sea‘s Miuna (as pictured above). Her charming commentary on the industry and business as a voice actor for “all the cute characters” was very insightful, plus it was nice to balance out the wild loudness of, well, a con with a much smaller, calmer Q&A panel. After visiting like three of her panels, I made it my mission to nab an autograph, of which was quick, painless, and fun to meet her one-on-one!

Oh yeah, I also snagged a ticket for Ian Sinclair since I just could. It was a Sunday, lines were significantly shorter and moved much faster, so I thought “Eh, why not.” He’s not a personal favorite of mine, but I do think he does great work!

**Insert my frustrations when Wendy Powell, who had no people in line for like 20 minutes, left just as I had snagged a ticket to meet her after noticing the vacancy. Ughhh, oh well, at least I got to hear her voice IRL in that panel earlier. Also, the staff were very supportive in my endeavors to try and meet her. Shucks, thanks anyway! :3

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Moving on from my meetings with guests, 2018 was also a year to try out some other activities that the con offered given my greater schedule leniency. Each year, I fear that Naka will offer fewer and fewer surprises for me. Especially this year, I figured I’d be bored half the time—BOY WAS I WRONG, and joyfully so! My siblings and I went to our first cosplay shoot (for My Hero Academia), posed for countless many pictures, and even tried waltz lessons of all things together! It was great fun, and EVERYWHERE we went were nice, happy, positive anime fans! So yeah, new experiences all around—I shouldn’t have underestimated such a great con like I did!

But you probably just wanted my haul. Ok, so do I. 🙂

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Pins, pins galore! Each year I make it a mission to scout out new pins (especially from one artist in particular who designed the trio on the right), and this year my bag had nearly 20 some-odd pins from various favorite anime. With most ranging from one to just a couple dollars, it’s an easy, affordable way to support artists, as well as keep track of your favorite characters. Highly advised! In case you were wondering, those three on the left were gifts from my sister that she bestowed upon me as soon as we got home—how thoughtful of her! And of course, I had to get my Sailor duo, plus the almighty, all-powerful LELOUCH VI BRITANNIA!

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I also got some playing cards, this becoming my third set with anime artwork on them. I was a bit let down with this set, thinking that because the main image had the entire cast on it, it should have pics of the other YOI characters. WRONG, all main three, and all random close-ups, ahahaha! Should’ve gone with the other set they had, but oh well, more YOI to go around.

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Traditionally, I like to snag some new wall art (either as a scroll or artists’ prints) each year. Seeing as how I cosplayed a male version of Danganronpa‘s Junko Enoshima (which a crap ton of people recognized somehow and asked me for a pic), I thought it was only fitting to cap off the experience with something from the franchise. I’d never seen this artwork before, so I thought hey, let’s do it!

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I DIDN’T REALIZE CONS HAD CLEAR FILES until I stumbled upon a couple of vendors on the last day that had stacks full of ’em! These epic Fate/stay night: [Unlimited Blade Works] clear files had the absolutely stunning poster artwork on them that my DVDs had, and though I wish they had the last one from the second season, they make an awesome set to either hang up together (considering a Fate wall in my room) or to use them as actual files. (Does anyone use clear files like they’re supposed to? Let me know . . .)

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AND THEY HAD GHOST IN THE SHELL TOO, LIKE, WHAAAT?!? At either just $4 or $2.50 per file depending on the vendor, these are wonderful deals compared to the $10+ that buying off the net will charge. Like my Danganronpa wall scroll, these SAC files will forever be remembered as the ones that I bought when I met Major Motoko Kusanagi, the great Mary Elizabeth McGlynn herself! #unreal

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This right here was the biggest win for me. I knew that as soon as I passed it on day one, it would be mine come the end of the weekend. Because I was unexpectedly busy with all the cosplay shenanigans, however, I ended up waiting until later in the con ’till I finally snatched it up. Thankfully, the artist still had a few, and she was super happy that I was this excited over her Kiki’s Delivery Service artwork. I mean, WHO COULDN’T?! It’s like Ghibli meets Shinkai all perfectly contained within one aesthetically pleasing masterpiece! The artist is Alexis Moore, and you can reach her at both her website alexis-moore.com and social media (presumably Insta or Twitter?) @alexisparade. Love this so much~!

That wraps up the stuff that I personally bought. Much less money was spent than in years past, but that can be a good thing sometimes. Here are some gifts my siblings bought me (and don’t worry, I surprised them with some neat stuff, too)!

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This blind-pick horizontal poster of Yuuri and Victor that my sister got me, ahhh, so precious. You know how anime fans sometimes like to decorate their own spaces with that bit of anime-inspired flair during the holidays? Yup, I think this might be the winter holiday piece that’ll go over my door. 😛

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Here’s a Code Geass soundtrack (again with the con-specific merch to match the times, damn!) that my brother bought for me! It’s got quite a few quality jams from the series, and for only $8, ummm, duh one of us is gonna get it LOL! After I passed it up for a minute, he swooped in, bought it, then surprised me by giving it to me as soon as we got home (omg how kind). Part of it was as a thank-you for me creating the *coolest* part of his cosplay that everyone admired last-minute, so it was pretty nice to get this after he got all that recognition for my work.  >.<

But that’s not all—he also bought me a new wallet, and it’s Evangelion, holy shit! I’ve already swapped it out with my previous decaying Zelda one, and though this one is a bit bigger, I loving having fashionable anime that low-key celebrate my status as a fan. I was the one who introduced Eva to my brother (and sister), and although I know it was thanks for the cosplay accessories, I also see it as part of a return to introducing them to one of their favorites, too.

And that about wraps things up. Lots of cool voice actors, lots of neat stuff, and lots of pics (which are hopefully coming in a separate post). Even Mary exclaimed how cool my Todoroki ice effects were, and Ian knew exactly who I was as male Junko: “That’s awesome!” he said! All the praise felt good, and for someone with a mediocre body image thing going on, it felt nice to be admired for looks, even if just superficially.

This fourth year held all kinds of surprises, despite my thinking that I had Naka all mapped out. As my fifth year comes next spring, I want to do bigger cosplays, buy even more merch and art, and meet more cool people, be it big names in the industry or simply fellow fans wanting a picture together! Thank you to all who made this year’s Naka-Kon possible, as it’s become my favorite way to spend the spring break! Also, thank you for reading this post! Let me know if any of the art or merch I got was particularly neat to you, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

My Top 10 Long-Awaited U.S. Anime Releases from This Year| Blogmas 2017 Day 2

Hey everyone, welcome to day 2 of Blogmas, or as everyone else calls it, the “12 Days of Anime!” This year was pretty BIG for us anime collectors in the states; several titles that had gone unlicensed for the looooongest time were FINALLY license-rescued and saw physical releases this year. Most were given that Blu-ray touch for the first time ever, and some even lucked out by getting an English dub, despite the YEARS of neglect. That’s pretty awesome of them.

Particularly, from 2016 September to the earlier parts of 2017, Funimation led the rescue front, releasing long-awaited titles like Haruhi Suzumiya, Code Geass, The Vision of Escaflowne (via Kickstarter), and more. For this post, I’ll be highlighting my favorite titles that I picked up from this year alone. So yeah, these are my top 10 releases from least to most anticipated. Here we go!

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TOP 10 U.S. ANIME RELEASES IN 2017

Honorable Mention:   The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

This film needs no introduction, as it means A LOT to many, many, MANY fans out there. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, I have not seen Haruhi Suzumiya. BUT, I did manage to snag one of the last copies of the collector’s edition before they went out of stock, as well as a copy of this film when it came out. In other words, I’m saving it for one epic rainy day, but should I had seen it by now, I’m sure it would’ve been close to the top. GOD BLESS FUNI for saving this film and bringing it to Blu-ray with the rest of the franchise!

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This set’s simple red-lettered theme is to DIE for

#10  The Vision of Escaflowne

Escaflowne may have been my first Kickstarter I campaign to participate in, but it most certainly won’t be my last. Recorded over with a brand new English dub (I did try out the old one, wasn’t too big a fan), Escaflowne was a blind buy, and I have to say it was a pretty neat show. Surprisingly, I haven’t reviewed it yet, but maybe after I get around to the film I’ll just review the entirety of the franchise. While this limited edition Kickstarter exclusive box is fairly nice looking, it’s nothing compared to the gorgeous hand-drawn art style of the collector’s edition. At least the reverse covers make it look like a complete set.

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I showed the back side of the box because the front is the same as the little art pamphlet. It’s also cooler.

#9  Miss Hokusai

By far the oddest entry on this list that you will read, this film has some very odd history. To be fair, I hadn’t heard of this film before either—it wasn’t until I came across a English trailer on YouTube featuring Erica Lindbeck that I immediately put everything that I was doing now to rush and preorder it on Amazon. There was just an underlying charm or witty humor in its delightful trailer, and Erica’s brief yet strong and somehow resilient portrayal as the lead (presumably the titular Miss Hokusai at the time) was enough to convince me it was worth it. The film ended up being fairly good, nothing like a Ghibli film (though it’s not really fair to compare like that). I think a second rewatch would have allowed me to place it higher up on this list.

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MAH GURL, KILLIN’ IT

#8  Code Geass: Akito the Exiled

Ever since I heard that more Code Geass existed—and it served to fill in events that took place during the series—I knew that Akito was a must. And though it doesn’t quite live up to the original’s masterful characterization and story (not even close, but it’s a tough show to beat), I did enjoy this little set of OVAs—the dub was pretty solid too, complete with accents! And ooh look, pretty art cards!

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Shin Godzilla was definitely a highly-anticipated release, but I’m just reusing pics here to save me time 🙂 

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#7  Sailor Moon Crystal Season II

Now, y’all already know that I love me some Sailor Moon, especially Crystal for its more accurate take on the manga’s rich story of betrayal and tragedy. Despite what anyone says about the CG animation or the ridiculously long legs, I still love Crystal, almost as much as the original; for me, both are necessary to bring out the depth of Usagi’s tale. That said, Crystal II was definitely a step down from the first. The plot was fine, accomplishing what took R +30 episodes in like 12, but the same main problem prevents Crystal from matching its predecessor—the characterization (particularly of the villains this time around) is incredibly weak. Aside from Usagi, Mamoru, and Chibiusa, there is very little time left for everyone else. I still love this saga, however, and I CANNOT wait to pick up Crystal III! The English dub is excellent for this one, BTW.

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The holographic finish on these Crystal covers is gorgeous—I only wish there was a consistent theme between all of them.

#6  Sailor Moon R The Movie

Anyone remember when this film was subtitled “Promise of the Rose” by Dic? Yeah, well I still call it that >.< and I have no regrets. Though a technically A-OK film, much of the nostalgia was lost with the removal of the English insert song “The Power of Love,” which I still jam to daily! The original Japanese song is, to be fair, still kickass. I didn’t get to witness R The Movie on the big screen like everyone else, but now I’ll be able to watch it whenever I like!

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I think this cover art was exclusively created for Viz’s release, so HUGE props to them on that cause it’s absolutely gorgeous.

#5  Sailor Moon S 

YASSSS SAILOR MOON S AND THE OUTER SCOUTS!!!! Of all the releases to come before it, this was the one I was most excited for—and boy did it live up to its reputation! You see, as a child, I watched this series on like 4 or 5 VHS tapes. Those tapes chronicled all of the Sailor Moon knowledge that I had, until I picked up Viz’s first release of it and watched the whole thing in sequential order. My childhood self was absolutely SHOOKETH to find out just how dark the real, uncensored story was. I’m still partially in disbelief at S‘s ending. But alas, the show goes on, and I cannot wait for SuperS in the spring!

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Viz’s other Sailor Moon DVD sets continue to look pretty bland, but at least they look nice together as a set.

#4  Your Name

Does this film even need an introduction? I mean, seriously, it was advertised like hell in 2016, and has been praised ever since. And you know what? It’s deserving of every good thing said about it. Now that I own the Blu-ray myself, I’ll elaborate more on this one in a review and theater experience coming up soon, heh heh heh. But for now, know that this one was a short, painful wait, yet one made all the more worth it because of the immediate NEED to experience it all over again.

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THE HOLOGRAPHIC FINISH ON THE SLIP COVER IS EVERYTHING. I tweeted my reaction to this surprise and Funimation retweeted it, causing it to blow up to 200 likes in one day. I’m famous now.

#3  Steins;Gate The Movie – Load Region of Deja Vu

In terms of looooong-awaited releases, this entry is hard to beat. I’m a huge Steins;Gate boy. In fact, it’s in my top 5 favorite anime of all time. When the film first came out in Japan, of course I -illegally- streamed it somewhere on the internet, and I have no regrets for doing so, as little did I know that it would not see a U.S. release for FOUR YEARS. Well, after a little bit of time travelin’ myself, four years are up, and now I can relive—what I like to believe is—one of the most perfect films to follow up an anime series. Long story short, I’m very happy to have this, and to FINALLY listen to J. Michael Tatum, Trina Nishimura, and the rest of the spectacular English dub in all their glory!

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I’m at a loss for words. The art parallels between this set and the series is just so damn clever.

#2  Hyouka 

We’re down to the last two—IT WAS SO HARD TO PICK. But of course it made a spot in the top five! Hyouka‘s lead, Oreki Houtarou, has been the face of this cafe for years now. That said, you can probably expect this to be one of the most celebrated releases for me in recent times. Hyouka was one of those Funimation license rescues that took FIVE years to get here. This is why, upon its announcement, that many thought the show would receive the sad DVD/sub-only treatment. Boy were we surprised. Not only would it get the Blu-ray combo pack special, but IT GOT A FREAKIN’ DUB. To make things even better, THE DUB IS FANTASTIC!!! (Sadly, there was no LTD ED box, but I made my own thanks to Simply Gee’s help, so we’re good I guess.) No words can honestly express my excitement, but there is still one title that deserves the real gold here . . .

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I was absolutely stunned with how much official artwork Funimation was able to obtain for these releases. Where they don’t have a cozy official box to slide into, the art more than makes up for it. Also, what do you think of my own DIY box? 😛

#1  Gosick

I watched this show in the spring of 2014. That’s three years ago, but it’s not as long as some fans have been waiting for. Gosick is SIX, almost SEVEN years old. SEVEN, and it had gone unlicensed for all this time. Some of you may argue that Hyouka is far better than Gosick, both as mystery shows and physical releases. And you know what, I kinda agree. But riddle me this: How much do you value the first anime you ever watched? Gosick is not that title, but it was one of the firsts that wowed me as a youngster—everything from the silly, lovable characters, the old-fashioned European atmosphere, and that EPIC ending theme that triumphantly rang at the end of each episode just enthralled me, it really did.

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And just like with Hyouka, holy crap—Funi was able to get like every single cover from the Japanese releases, and used them in a practical way that features all at once. I JUST LOVE THIS SO MUCH. (Also, another homemade box.) 

So here we are, so many years later, and so many anime have gone by since. On over 20 occasions, I was THIS close to just buying a bootleg of this series (heck, not sure how, but it supposedly even came with a soundtrack!). But I had faith, a near-unwavering faith that one day, however long it would take, someone would save this show. Once it left Crunchyroll a few years back, I had officially lost all ties with it—but I still carried my faith with me. And then Funimation finally lifted my prayers: “GOSICK Blu-ray/DVD English Dub & Sub COMING SOON.” That’s all it took to make this year awesome for me as a collector and a fan. Even though the dub is merely serviceable, I still have the sub; Even though it didn’t come with a fancy box to house the two parts, I made my own; EVEN THOUGH it took SIX YEARS to be rescued, it’s always better late than never.

God, I love Funimation. And for all these reasons and more, this why I love the exciting, unpredictable industry that is anime. 

(still praying for ya, Tales of Symphonia and Black Rock Shooter—you got this!)

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Let me know if you had any favorite anime releases from this year! Heck, I didn’t even get around to the magic happenin’ at Sentai lately (to be fair, I haven’t picked up their latest LTD EDs yet, though—still lookin’ at you, Haikyuu)! This wraps up Blogmas Day Two of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

2017 August Anime Haul [Birthday Edition]!

Greetings cafe goers!

August was a special month for me: first day of college, beginning my Funimation Now and Amazon Prime subscriptions, and most special of all, my birthday! Thank you so much to all those who sent me birthday wishes and good cheer that August 27th! It was just another reminder as to how many friends I’ve met thanks to blogging, and how far we’ve all gone together. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Now, my siblings like to go overboard on birthdays. They’re HUGE in my house. Like, even if you’re 40 or 50 you’re gonna get a ton of gifts and feel celebrated for—that’s just how we roll!

This year, my siblings asked for a list, and while that doesn’t guarantee anything will get picked, it gives them an idea of what I like (even though they already know by now). As always, I try to remain cost efficient, pulling together items that are currently on sale from various sites and places into one big list of fairly inexpensive anime-related items.

At the time, the biggest sale going on was Funimation’s end of summer (or was it middle of summer, I can’t remember) sale. We’re talking $5 films, $10 classics, and $30 new shows—that’s like RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP. And for that reason, I can understand why I received so many new titles. I’m now gonna brag about how cool they are by showing off what I got, so thanks bro and sis!

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My sister gifted to me one of the big hitters, if not THE biggest, of 2015: the chic yet suspenseful Death Parade. We’ve already busted it open, and have been watching an episode each night to relieve stress (or to add to it since there’s so much suspense and, well, death). She also got me the Trigun: Badlands Rumble film, and while that’s neat and all, I don’t have Trigun, nor have I watched it. There’s a reason she gave it to me (and wrapped it in my signature paper wrapping decorated with hints to the show as a little guessing game) . . .

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AND THIS is why she got me the film, hahaha she had coordinated with my brother!! Now I can enjoy this classic and not feel bad that they spent a ton of money on anything. He also got me the last book in the Bakemonogatari trilogy, which I’ve been reading since the first, Kizumonogatari.

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But he doesn’t stop there, oh no. He got me the SECOND big-hitter of 2015, everybody’s favorite Blood Blockade Battlefront, as well as the next film in the Project Itoh trilogy, harmony. (I showed the first film, The Empire of Corpses, to them, and told them the history of the project’s writer. Guess it must’ve made him curious.) I haven’t watched either of these yet, but I can’t wait!!

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To finish of my Ghost in the Shell collection (which I also showed to them the 1995 film), he got me the second of two OVA sets, which contains borders: 3 & 4Ghost Tears and Ghost Stands Alone. While I thought that Arise was mediocre at best, I am a collector, and this is just as wonderful as receiving a 10/10 title!

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST (oh god, how truly spoiled I am), he gifted to me this curious little oddity I found in the RightStuf 30th Anniversary sale, Freedom, which is supposedly from the creators of the apocalyptic Akira. I haven’t watched either of these yet, but I’m excited to explore more of the anime sci-fi branch and its origins. Plus it came in this stupidly high-quality box set (despite being under $30), complete with a mini artbook and YES black Blu-ray cases. Again, thank you so much bro!!

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But OF COURSE, I had to spoil myself #treatyoself with two titles that I’ve been VERY excited to watch! The first, a short series (like Arise, composed of four or five one-hour-long episodes) which takes place between the legendary Code Geass‘s first and second seasons: Akito the Exiled. After rewatching the series with my siblings this past summer (which they ABSOLUTELY LOVED TO DEATH), getting this ASAP was a must. Now we can enjoy the events that took place between the two seasons, as well as witness stunning CG mecha fights. I’ve plugged in the first two episodes, and so far it’s quite entertaining. Oh, and it came with an art card set like the first did, YAY! (ugh I’m wet for Clamp artwork.)

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The other movie I picked up was the wildly anticipated 2016 Japanese masterpiece film Shin Godzilla. I’m not a huge Godzilla fan, but knowing that Evangelion director Hidaeki Anno directed this project, too, made it a MUST HAVE. I NEED to know what he worked on between 3.33 and his upcoming 3.0+1.0 in order to understand the emotions running through his mind (or dare try), so the other title I need to pick up is Sentai Filmworks’ The Dragon Dentist, which I believe comes out in the fall.

I also know that Life-in-Japan YouTuber Sharla (Sharla in Japan, Sharmander) worked with the lead actors and actresses on pronouncing their English, as there is quite a bit despite being an otherwise subtitled film. I like Sharla, her videos being a large source of relaxation, exploration, and fun for me.

For another #TakutoMovieNight on Twiter, I watched Shin Godzilla as soon as it came in and I LOVED IT to pieces!!! Still not converted to a full-on Godzilla fan, haha, no, but the directing is very much like his films (1.11 especially), to which I honestly can’t get enough of. I’ll review it sometime if you’d like, just know that it’s already a thumbs up from me! When I watch it again, I’ll try out Funimation’s English track to see if it’s any good!

That’s all from me! For those wondering, I had a nice relaxing weekend with the family, to which we exchanged good food, laughs, and films together. Specifically, we continued the tradition of watching a film of my choice, and to follow up last year’s 1.11 (review here), we watched Evangelion 2.22 (review here).

Surprisingly, it left my parents intrigued as to what happens next, so my dad decided we’d watch 3.33 (review here) the following week. That made me happy. After watching it, however, they both got pretty confused (no surprise there), but I still think that they hold as much hope for the last film as I do, and that also reassures me.

In otherwords, it’s been a very Evangelion weekend, but I wouldn’t have it any other way~!

Again, big thank you to all who said such kind things to me throughout my little holiday!! I’ll be posting an End of August Update soon, so look forward to that! I really do have the BEST, most supportive family one could ever want, both IRL and through the net. Thanks for making my day that lil’ bit of “extra” we all need! Love you all, you party crew!!!

– Takuto, your host

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Takuto’s Naka-Kon 2016 Haul and Recap!

Greetings all, it’s haul time~! First, let’s briefly talk about the convention itself.

This year was by far Naka-Kon’s largest year for attendance. I believe it had about under 10,000 people per day, which is mind-boggling considering that last year, I believe there were 7,000 or 8,000 attendees. This was also the con’s greatest year for number of guests, of which, I got to personally meet many!

The majority of panels this year were headed by the guest voice actors, very similar to years past. That’s not to simply ‘cast’ them aside, though (hehe, puns). My favorite two panels were Erica Mendez’s “DON’T LOSE YOUR WAAAAY” and surprisingly, Karen Strassman’s “Accents, Dialects and Voice Acting.” With Erica, her touching person-to-person interactions and meaningful responses made for a very entertaining late-hour sit-in. My favorite of all panels I visited, Karen’s regarding dialects, was not only informational, but hilarious and crowd-involving. She clearly knows her way around the human voice (could’ve said mouth, but yeah, no). After asking her for her autograph, she asked me for a hug. We basically became best friends. 🙂

The vendor’s/dealer’s room, while it wasn’t a disappointment, could’ve been much better. I remember last year they had several “hundreds” of bins full of small anime figures. They were cheap in price and quality, but scrounging through those bins was a crap ton of fun. It was sad to see they weren’t there. Also, many of the artists were returners from last year, which was no surprise considering their talent, local access, and presumably, affordability. These artists had many of their same previous works, so there wasn’t a whole lot to look through in terms of art (not that they’re bad at all, heck no, we just had already seen many of them before).

In terms of technical aspects, I absolutely love the convenience of this smaller con being connected to the hotel we stayed at. Last year, like floor 18. This year, floor 7 (ah yeah, took like 30 sec to hit the ground floor). I had the entire map memorized by an hour into the night, and as such managing our time and making it into lines early enough was pud. Speaking of our arrival, we left just late enough to arrive at 9:30 PM, and entry time was 9:00 PM *facepalms* so we missed ALL of Friday’s activities. Yeah, it bites, but I still got to attend plenty of cool events, trust me!

But you came here for a haul post, didn’t you? Well then, let’s not keep you waiting!

*MIGHT NEED TO VIEW SLIDESHOWS IN BROWSER*

Saber Alter Prize Figure

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First up is this bad boy (woman, knight, spirit)! I’m actually not the biggest fan of Saber Alter, but I picked it up in a 2 for $45 deal. Initially, this was supposed to be that Asuka Langley Soryu I’ve proclaimed I’ve wanted for months now, and SHE WAS THERE, but after thinking, “Hey, let me scope out other prices here,” SHE WAS GONE!!! This was honestly the most stressful thing that happened to me. So instead, Saber came home with me, and I admit, she does look nice on my shelves. For being prize figure quality, this is clearly a grade B+ or even A figure. Solid build, nice metallic armor paint, though the hair lacks any shading. Minor details.

Eren Yeager Prize Figure

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I really like how this one turned out. This was the second prize figure in the 2 for $45 deal, and I’m more than happy how he turned out! The shading in the cloak’s ruffles is outstanding, and all of the paint details on the chest, jacket,boots, and leather skirt part are superbly done as well. I also dig the hair texture, though there is only a solid black layer over it. Details in the face, specifically the eyes, are crisp, much like Saber Alter’s. The only disappointments are the lazy paint-overs on the Wings of Freedom logo, in that the green was presumably just airbrushed over the cape without regard to the logo. This green mysteriously also shows up on the back of the jacket, so I’m not quite sure what happened here. Finally, the base is weak. Not in design, because it stands quite balanced, but in paint job and texture. Could’ve been better there, but for $45 dollars for TWO figures (my first “statue” figures, BTW!), I’m more than happy with everything. Eren sure is tall…

Pins: Chibi Souma and NERV

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If you might recall, I visited this same artist last year and bought a couple Log Horizon pins and an Attack on Titan one. I love this artists style, and seeing lil’ Souma eating away was a must-have for me (my sister bought two more so we could achieve the 3 for $5 deal). And that second one is just delightful for Eva fans like myself. It was only $2, and I plan to stick it on my bag at home! Love puns, love pins ^.^

Evangelion AT Field T-Shirt

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So without Asuka, I had to compensate somehow for my lack of Eva merch, and this T-shirt was my tipping point. In addition to getting my first figures, this is my first anime shirt! I “absolutely” love the classic, bright yellow-orange AT-field from the original over the print! It works phenomenally, and I cant’ wait to wear it around! Hopefully the print stays on for a looong time.

Wall Scrolls: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Negima!, and Kill la Kill (autographed)

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This one’s easy. An Eva wall scroll for only $10?? C’mon, that’s as cheap as they come! Also, it features one of my favorite franchises in artwork I have never seen before. BAM, its mine! As for Negima!, yeah, I just have a soft spot for the series. The sequel, as you might recall, was the first anime I ever watched, so finding merch for it was pretty rare. The last one is one of my favorite art pieces for Kill la Kill, so getting that one in scroll form was an instant hit with me. I also got Erica Mendez, the wonderful English VA for Ryuko to sign it ❤

AUTOGRAPHS

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Warning: Lots of Text Ahead! @_@

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I’ll just list my experiences with each VA below in sequential order:

Erica MendezThis gal is as down-to-earth as you can get! She politely signed my LTD Vol. 1 release of Kill la Kill  and even signed the scroll above. I think I’ll leave pictures of us out for now, but yes, she even took one with my sister and I. While at her table, I asked her about what it was like to be in the Aldnoah.Zero dub, and she replied that it was her first-ever role in a mecha anime, so getting to voice a pilot was pretty exciting. Thought I’d ask her about something different just to stand out, hehe, so at her open Q&A panel, I asked her what it was like to voice a calmer role in contrast to Ryuko, like Akari Sakishima in A Lull in the Sea. Erica responded claiming that she never thought she’d qualify as having an “older sister” voice, so to do it so early on in her career was sheer joy. Playing calmer characters brings her to a different level of understanding, she says, and especially in a slice-of-life/drama-heavy series like this one. 

Austin Tindle I DID NOT realize how big of a goofball this man was! Hah, his first panel, which was supposedly his serious one, was a joke, but I had a fair amount of fun sitting through and getting to know the voice behind Accelerator and Shu Ouma. At his autograph table, I asked him to draw what my void from Guilty Crown would look like upon merely meeting me for the first time. Thus, the “Badass gun” was born, and you can read about that XDD I sent my brother and sister with Index II and Railgun S, respectively, to get signed, as they wanted to meet him yet had nothing with them. After, we took a picture where he drew out my void. I’m such a dork, but it was hilarious!

Micah Solusod – Met this cool dude last year, and at his Q&A panel in 2015, I asked him what the most impactful moment in the RailDex franchise was, to which he responded correctly with the finale of the Sister’s Arc in Railgun S. So this year, I brought it up and told him about my meeting him last year (I was that self-proclaimed ‘RailDex kid’) and he remembered and was more than willing to fulfill the memory by signing my Railgun S part 2 DVD. Then we took a picture as “magical girls,” another ridiculous concoction from my stupid brain that made a lot of us laugh out loud! I also sent my brother with the same Index II and my sister with the Guilty Crown artbook. She, not knowing what to sign, brought up Austin’s idiotic doodle, to which Micah fired with his own drawing. Love this guy 😀

Karen StrassmanComing in knowing her only as Kallen and Sola-Ui, this was otherwise a blind meet-up. We had extra time in our schedule to burn, so I suggested going to her dialect panel. BEST PANEL EVER! She’s such a compassionate, exciting, and generous person to be around, and after telling her so at her autograph table, she asked for a hug after signing my mini Fate/Zero pin-up and posing for a truly badass picture. I’ll never forget this woman for as long as I live!

Ayu Sakata After re-reading the schedule of events the night before, I realized that Apphia Yu did NOT have an autograph booth set up (I only realized she had her own booth supporting her visual novel AFTER the con). Thus, she became the rare find of the day. My mom, who had caught her and taken a picture with her earlier that day, was willing to run around to her booth and have my Robotics;Notes part 1 and my brothers Airi art card signed. SHE DID BOTH, and upon my brother’s messaged request gave us a weather report (watch Robotics;Notes after Steins;Gate, both excellent anime with fantastic dubs). 71 degrees. Thanks mom XD

Greg AyresI also met this cheeky guy last year, but being in that”gotta catch them all” spirit, I went ahead and got a ticket for this last VA, and boy was it worth it. This guy is such a joy every time I’ve spoken to him, so this time, I brought the first DVD and show I had ever bought/seen for anime – Negima!?, the SAVE edition. I told him my story and how I got my brother and sister into anime with it, and I believe he was touched (or at least I was) because he gave me an extra-special message that I’ll hold close to heart, forever. I also got No.6 signed because he was mah boy Shion in it, and sent my sister with Kokoro Connect because she didn’t want to be awkward and have nothing. We took another picture, and that completed my 2016 VA-dex (Pokedex, anyone?)!!

The last thing I wanted to talk about was my cosplay of Mikaela Hyakuya – HUGE SUCCESS!!! Part of me wants to avoid pictures due to Internet security and stuff, but maybe if enough of you holler… Anyway, unlike last year, I had more people come up and as ME for a picture rather than me ask them. Can you believe that? Little ol’ me and my ugly mug, hah! It was so wonderful walking around as one of my current favorite characters, and I’m even more glad with the reception. Yes, I did buy it all (jeans, boots, and undershirt were mine), though I did have to modify a lot of the uniform and cloak accessories. Regardless, LOTS of cosplay experience was made, and it makes me want to try even harder next year – either make more props like swords and stuff, or even try make-up, who knows!

Thank you to ALL those who made this event so memorable and all-around wonderful! To the guest voice actors and actresses who followed through with my stupid requests and spent the time to chat with me, an EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS!! The con security was either body-guard-strict or bouncy and light-hearted, so I much preferred the latter of folks who volunteered with a NICE attitude. FINALLY, I want to thank Kausus of OtakuGamerZone and Crimson of MyFujoshiLife for capping this off as one of my most memorable years!! It was a pleasure – an honor – to meet such substantial figures in our small aniblogging community. I only wished we had more time set aside to sit down and chat, but we all came with our own groups so tension was high. Though brief, our meet-up was LEGENDARY, and hopefully next time (if there is one), we’ll have more time to revel in the experience. Was I the person you expected to meet?? We should talk!

If you read this to the end, thank you very, very much! I feel I’ve been so out of touch with the community as of late, but hopefully that’ll change. As always, I enjoy talking to you, so leave a like and comment below about your own recent con experiences or a simple hello! Anything cool you saw in my haul? VA autograph experiences? Let me have it all, and until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Takuto’s 2015 RightStuf Holiday Haul #3

Evening all! I realize that this 2015 haul is a little late (“so last year” yadda yadda), but gifts are always better late than never, am I right?! Because the sale is over, I will not be posting links. Don’t let that stop you from browsing for these neat titles, though! Alrighty, here we go!

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches Volumes 3 and 4 (manga)

I haven’t actually started this series, but after winning a mini YouTube giveaway (FIRST TIME EVER WINNING), I received the first two novels of this bewitching franchise. Supposedly it’s a really great rom-com or something of the sorts, and I plan to start reading . . . whenever I find the time 😛

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Redline on Blu-ray

Oh dang, y’all, it’s mutha-flippin’ Redline. I think I had busted into this high-energy film the night after I got it and remember loving every single frame of it. This was a recommended pick up by Gigi from Animepalooza, and boy she wasn’t wrong when saying you shouldn’t miss out on Redline! Whew! What a ride! Both this title and the two manga volumes were courteous Christmas gifts from my sister, so thanks girl!

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Danganronpa The Animation on Blu-ray/DVD Limited Edition

You should probably know that I’ve been anticipating this physical release since I watched it over two years ago. Let’s also say that it was an oh~so rich and bloody reunion muahahaha! Despite the criticism it gets for being a short 13-episode adaptation of hit game, I still savor every bit of Danganronpa that I can. Every last drop. I also hit this one up ASAP and OMG the English dub is fantastic!! The shiny rainbow/pink film that coats the hard box and the beveled logo also makes for nice touches. I thought that FUNimation’s tamer LTD EDs were lacking recently – Not with this release! I only wish the cases themselves had art of locations in the show rather than 4 close-ups of a few characters. Oh well. This was a gift from my older brother, so nicely done, bruh!

The Rose of Versailles Parts 1 & 2 on DVD Limited Edition

Also another blind recommendation from Gigi, but I’m taking her word (and that of the community’s) that this is a must-watch shoujo masterpiece. I do love the French Revolution, though . . . I don’t dip into shoujo anything unless my sister is watching something, but when I watch shoujo – I WATCH SHOUJO. You’ll probably find me swooning over royalty and daydreaming by the window during class once I start watching this 🙂 This was the last “gift to myself” and I hope I’ll enjoy it as much as everyone else has!

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And there you have it! The end of my gift-receiving days has crouched upon us, and I will say that I spent quite a large sum of money this holiday season. No regrets – yet – but it was a fair amount between gifts for myself (LOL) and others. With the never-ending expansion of my collection only growing, I’ll now have several titles I can just pull off the shelf without having seen them – It’s like having an instant store right in my room where everything is free (kinda, not really, sorta)! Anyway, it’s been an incredibly busy week, returning to the “s” word and all, and hopefully I’ll find the time to push in a review. If it’s any consolation, I do have a draft of something in the works, even though it’ll probably turn out like dung >.< Haha, we’ll see, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Takuto’s 2015 RightStuf Holiday Haul #1

Konnichiwa minna-san! If you purchase anime or manga from RightStuf.com, you’ll probably know that their annual holiday sale cuts the prices of thousands of products just for us fans! Let’s just say I spent way too much . . . Today I have one of possibly two or even three anime/manga hauls, so let’s get to it (I’ll even leave you guys links in case you want to pick up these great titles yourself)!

ef – a tale of memories and ef – a tale of melodies on Blu-ray

First is the hit drama and its sequel that’ll bring you to tears. Ef was one of the first ten or so anime I ever watched, so you can only imagine how long I’ve been waiting to pick this up for a decent price. Being licensed and dubbed by Sentai Filmworks, both halves are normally $35-$45. In this exclusive sale, both halves can be purchased for just $14 each (DVD $12)! That’s $28 for two seasons on Blu-ray! If you don’t like having two collections, however, the recently released complete collection is $35 (DVD $28). Go get ef – You’ll only have emotional breakdowns for weeks after 🙂

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http://www.rightstufanime.com/ef-A-Tale-of-Melodies-Blu-ray-Complete-Collection-Hyb

http://www.rightstufanime.com/ef-A-Tale-of-Memories-Blu-ray-Complete-Collection-Hyb

Fate/stay night on DVD

I honestly never thought that I’d be purchasing stay night – EVER. I thought it was pretty boring, not bad, just boring. When I noticed that the complete DVD collection was selling for just $10 (Blu-ray $35), I JUMPED ON IT. Licensed and dubbed by Sentai Filmworks, you can own the beloved yet infamous 2006 anime for just $10!

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http://www.rightstufanime.com/Fate-Stay-Night-DVD-Complete-Collection-Hyb

Fate/ kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA on DVD

WHAT? More Fate for just $10?!? Apparently, and it, too, is complete with an English dub (Blu-ray $25)! I didn’t see myself wanting to own this wacky first-season spinoff either, but for the mere cost of two Starbucks drinks, it’s all yours. I’m starting to realize that coffee is incredibly expensive . . . good thing my digital coffee is FREE, haha!

http://www.rightstufanime.com/Fate-kaleid-liner-Prisma-Illya-DVD-Complete-Collection-Hyb

Girls und Panzer on DVD

While we’ve got the $10-DVD train rolling, here’s the famous “girls x giant-a$$ tanks” anime, or so I’ve heard. Anyway, it’s released by Sentai with an English dub (Blu-ray $25) and the $10-OVA collection is also on sale (Blu-ray $14)! I haven’t picked it up yet, but I probably will here soon. Go get yer some high school girls in a tank. A FREAKIN’ TANK.

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http://www.rightstufanime.com/Girls-und-Panzer-DVD-Complete-TV-Series-Hyb

Diamond Daydreams on DVD

I’m not really too into romance/dramas unless they have other elements to them, but here’s a little title that I know nothing about. Why’d I pick it up then? IT WAS $5. It was limited edition (well, it’s in a hard thin pack box), English dubbed, and only $5. GUYS – 5 freakin’ dollars! It also had a decent rating on MAL if that counts for anything. Whether it sucks or not, I still think it’s worth the ridiculously cheap price. I hardly ever blind-buy anime, especially one this obscure, but I’ve paid less on a burger than what I just paid here. Check it out before it’s gone!

5I’m a guy . . . Don’t judge . . . Pretty box

http://www.rightstufanime.com/Diamond-Daydreams-Complete-Collection-DVD-Hyb-Thinpak

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That’s all I’ve got for now. Pretty darn good deals, am I right? Whenever my next package arrives, I’ll post another haul post. I hope you enjoyed seeing what I picked up! Do you like anime hauls? Have you picked up any of the things I talked about? Let me know in them comments below, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host