2019 Holiday Haul #2 – Cyber Monday Deals || RightStuf Pickups

Hello all!

I’m back for day two of showing off all the stuff I bought for the holidays this year. Honestly, I spent waaay too much on myself, haha. But it’s so hard to pass up great deals on anime and manga you know you’ll want to have in your collection eventually, right?

So I splurged, as I often do, and here’s what I picked up through RightStuf’s 2019 Cyber Monday sale—enjoy!

Oof, we’re starting off with a strong one, and one of my favorite releases of the year no less. Space Battleship Yamato 2202 is one of those sequels that I normally wouldn’t recommend, if only the studio didn’t do such a fan-FREAKING-tastic job at reanimating the story for the modern day. This is my personal favorite remake of a classic series, and although it’s not everything I wanted Yamato’s sequel to be, it is told EXACTLY as the original story was, if not better on every front.

More pictures of the box and the art book. Funimation did such an incredible job making this as similar to their 2199 release as possible—as a collector, I am thankful to own such beautiful cohesive sets. The back of the Blu-ray shows off stunning art of the series’s villains, and while the art book is a little more bland than the previous one, it’s still a great bonus!

Ughhh the reverse side of the Blu-ray features gorgeous art of the side protagonists of 2202 preparing to engage the enemy. I love the violet sky and ship looming in the background. The discs are also uniquely designed with artwork from the series.

And if you were wondering what was inside that silver box up top, YES, we got some high quality art boards featuring artwork from the original Japanese releases. Really wish I could frame ALL of them, but alas, I’ve got very little space to spare. Kinda weird how there’s a duplicate of one of the cards . . . maybe I’ll give it to my brother or something, as he’s also a fan.

Up next is some more classic mecha stuff, this time with Gainax’s hallmark Gunbuster and it’s sequel recap/rebuild film Diebuster. Other than the fact that this franchise is absolutely iconic to the genre, I know very little about it. Spoiler alert, there’s a high chance that this will be my pick for my Valentine’s Day special, but we’ll see!

While the first season from the 70s or 80s (can’t remember) is long out of print here in the states, the second season is fairly easy to pick up. Here are all three volumes I picked up for like $2 each, and just like the films each release comes with its own little art book—such a pleasant little addition! Happy to finally be able to explore this lost gap in my Gainax history!

Lots of Aniplex stuff was/is on sale this year, and while I had no original intent on picking up the second half of Aldnoah.Zero (those who’ve seen it know why), I decided to snag them up before they went OOP like all of Aniplex’s older releases seem to be doing.

For half price off, just $15 each, I really didn’t want to miss out on owning this series complete if I ever turned the other cheek in the future. It’s not a great sequel, but I love this series nevertheless. Here are the reverse arts of the DVD, which I personally leave on display this way cause the warm color palette for these two DVDs congrats nicely with the cool-toned blue and turquoise of the first season sets.

Lastly for anime is this little one, Maria the Virgin Witch (clearly keeping up with the space/mecha theme, I know). In all seriousness, I picked this series up because it was recommended to me years ago at Naka-Kon and I never ended up watching it for some reason. Well, that changes now, and for $11 how could I resist!

Last but not least, I bought more manga! Continuing with volumes 4-9 in my collection, here we have the majority of what the second cour is currently adapting if I’m not mistaken. Guys, I unashamedly LOVE Fire Force. I find the series to be tons of fun, the bits of unnecessarily flashy fan-service aside, and the character outfits/designs are just the coolest in my eyes. I’ll actually be cosplaying little Shinra Kusakabe in March, so I’m really excited to beef up my manga knowledge of the flame hero!


There it is, the second of more holiday hauls to come. Like the first haul’s unintentional blue-green blend of items, this haul is also by chance themed out for a color. Can you tell what that is? (HINT: It’s the color of FIRE.) Feel free to share your thoughts on any of these pick-ups down in the comments, and I’ll see you all tomorrow with yet another batch of anime-related goodies!

– Takuto, your host

Majestic Prince: The Dumb, the Horny, & the Brave | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 24-episode spring 2013 anime “Majestic Prince,” animated by Doga Kobo and Orange, directed by Keitarou Motonaga, and based on Rando Ayamine’s manga of the same name.

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Born to Fight

In the near future, humans have begun to live in space through large satellites connected via space elevator. It’d be natural progression for the human race to eventually leave Earth and migrate elsewhere, but hostile aliens launching attacks from the outskirts of Jupiter are making this progress a little trickier than humanity would’ve hoped.

To adapt in their new zero-gravity environment and combat the foreign belligerent threat, genetically engineered children known as “Princes” by the public eye are artificially raised and trained to pilot giant armed robots. These units, the AHSMB, are humanity’s last line of defense, and as the egocentric, lust-driven Wulgaru forces close in on Earth’s orbit, five young pilots from the academic city Grandzehle are forced to fight on the front lines—or die trying to defend their home.

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Majestic Prince tells a simple story. Aliens = bad are after human DNA so as to satisfy their hunt for life in the universe. Meanwhile, humans = good are trying to protect themselves from the invaders. I was really hoping for the anime to be at least somewhat more complicated than that, but I’m afraid that’s as gritty as it gets.

Following a lucky victory in the show’s opening episode, Izuru Hitachi and his classmates get a taste of what the battlefield is really like, as well as how society reacts to humanity’s “super soldiers.” After these first six episodes of training, the kids come to realize that their lives are much more complicated and meaningful than fighting aliens. They have become symbols for justice, the “Majestic Princes,” and although Izuru and his friends were not expecting this kind of life post-graduation, such is what fate *cruelly* delivered. 

In a series of 2 to 3-episode mini arcs, our heroic group of teens is given missions involving disabling enemy technology, fighting, or scouting out enemy territory. The goal: push the Wulgarian forces to the edge of the solar system. Despite inching closer towards liberation, each of these little victories feels hollow. Majestic Prince is most certainly a plot-driven series, but despite the progress, the story and all of the pieces that make it up just aren’t that interesting. Plot twists, when unveiled, are few and unsurprising, and the biggest reason for this lackluster delivery lies in the dreadfully written characters, both good and evil.

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The Fail Five (that’s literally their name)

Ok, it’s actually Team Rabbits, but regardless, I don’t really like these kids. Not that I have anything against them, but there’s quite honestly nothing about this cast that stands out. Izuru is the hero (or at least he desparately proclaims himself to be so), Asagi is the friendly-fire rival, Tamaki is the cute one (boooo), and Suruga is the annoyingly smart and techy one (UGHHH, I hate this guy).

The only one of Grandzehle Academy’s infamous “Fail Five” that strays from the mark is Kei, the constantly-tired big-sister-type that ironically sucks at anything home-ec. In any other show with this kind of cast, the hero would be paired with the cute one, but not in Majestic Prince. Instead, the series gives Kei unrequited feelings for Izuru, who’s denser than a brick to notice. I . . . kinda liked this scenario, but the execution is half-assed. The series abruptly ends with no emotional or romantic conclusion for our poor, purple-hued tactician. Talk about a wasted investment.

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At least the alien Wulgaru are nasty and cool, right? Hah, WRONG. This is probably the most boring cast of humanoid villains I’ve ever seen in a mech show. Characterized as manifestations of the darker side of human emotions, these pleasure-driven, war-hungry tyrants are only in it for themselves, which would’ve been fine had they served as more than just slaves to this destructive ideology. The Wulgarian elites possess half-hearted motives, and their emperor is a total snooze. He doesn’t do ANYTHING!

I would’ve loved to have seen the drama of betrayal commonly found in any series with a collapsing evil monarchy built up much more than it was, but I suppose even Majestic Prince‘s antagonists aren’t on the bright side.

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Visual Forte: “With Our Powers, Combined!”

Perhaps the animation is the most impressive thing Majestic Prince has going for it. The series is listed with having two production studios; I would imagine that Doga Kobo took over the 2D stuff, while Orange (Land of the Lustrous, Black Bullet, Dimension W) handled all the 3D CG mechas and space fights.

While the quality of the CG is actually pretty good (the mechas themselves looking faaaar more impressive than the Wulgarian blob creatures), the fight choreography can be hard to follow at times. Dramatic zoom ins and outs, constant spinning around the battlefield, no focal point to really anchor at—to be frank, it’s too much at times. You almost get space sick, if such a thing exists.

But, seeing as it’s a giant robot series, let’s talk about those for a sec. It should be the goal of any mecha designer to create a look that is both appealing to look at and memorable in some way, shape, or form. Each of the Fail Five pilot a mecha unique to their strong suits, stylized by mechanical designer Kouji Watanabe. Suruga likes guns, so he’s the sniper. Tamaki and Kei are protectors, so they make up the shield and strategist, respectively. Meanwhile, Asagi is that ninja/senpai figure, so naturally he wields a sword, and our hero Izuru is the fighter, hence fists, guns, and a mild combination of everyone’s skill set, really.

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This works really well for the audience. It allows the viewer to associate not only a color to these frankly unmemorable characters, but also their own unique AHSMB unit. Add in the crisp CG imaging and a little transformation sequence at the start of each battle and you’ve got a good routine going—a factor of many great mecha anime that few seem to acknowledge. Even if the characters all kinda have the same moe face, the distinctions on the battlefield marked by the varying colors, positions, roles, weapons, and unit designs make up Majestic Prince‘s visual forte: the collaboration between these two great studios!

As for sound, Toshiyuki Watanabe’s orchestral tracks add a classic vibe to this series—even if the visual effects are anything but. While I can’t recall any specific music moments (aside from the combat start-up sequence) that caught my ear, Watanabe’s OST adds another wonderful layer to this otherwise high quality production.

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Another One Bites the Dust

Half of Majestic Prince was boring; the other was unmemorable. Easily, its most interesting plot point was how such a society would view child mecha pilots—and that only lasted throughout the first half. My favorite episode didn’t even have any fighting in it; rather, it gave us insight into what the daily lives of these teens are like, and all the business they must tend to off the battlefield. Whether it’s repping a brand to gain financial support, volunteering community service at a daycare to ensure public trust, or even modeling for the media, these are realistic issues that most mechas wouldn’t dare to waste time on. And yet, that’s where Majestic Prince thrived.

But when you put all the pieces together, something still doesn’t fit quite right, and it’s honestly the characters that ruin Majestic Prince for me. First, the series insults its cast with unintelligently written dialogue. Second, these kids are dumb (a result of their terrible scrips!) and when they try to get you to laugh—cause you know, there’s always some sort of innuendo to be made with a bunch of horny teens around—you find yourself more so rolling your eyes. And third, the series insists on being funny, and yet when it tries to be, it gets worse. Some of the characters even drag porn into the mix just to squeeze a laugh out of the viewer. Straight up PORN. No, I’m not joking, and no, it didn’t work.

Had I been five or even ten years younger, maybe the series would’ve worked on me. But it’s very hard to pass Majestic Prince on anything when its story and characters are so obviously flat and dry. This is especially sad considering that its production values are pretty damn decent for its time, a combined effort between visuals and sound that clearly tries to salvage this wreck. At the end of the day, however, I’d still just prefer to leave this mess out in space—floating with the dust, and far out of my reach.

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I’m not fighting because I want to fight. I’m doing it to protect those who are dear to me. And because . . . I want to become a hero! — Izuru Hitachi


Afterword

Despite my misgivings with the show, I’m glad I finally gave Majestic Prince a watch. It’d been in my backlog (and on my shelf!) for what had felt like forever, and when at last I decided that the wait was over and plugged in the first disc, well, this is what happened. For all its dorky characters and dull plot points, I’m barely letting Majestic Prince squeak by with the “Coffee” rating. Barely. What saves it is its animated space fights, which allows the piece to at least be entertaining at times. Apparently there’s an OVA episode 25 and a film to follow that make the ending feel less abrupt, but I’m in no hurry to get to them, especially since they aren’t currently licensed.

Leave it to me to once again review a throwback that NO ONE asked for, yet I delivered, haha. What did you think of the Majestic Princes (or Fail Five if you fancy) and their valiant efforts to protect Earth? Be sure to let me know, especially if you thought better of the show! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

ALDNOAH.ZERO Episodes 1-6 English Dub Thoughts

Konnichiwa, minna, today I’m here with a totally unscripted (script?) post regarding Aniplex of America’s [ridiculously overpriced] first volume of the sci-fi mecha drama anime about space wars, ALDNOAH.ZERO. Their first volume contains episodes 1-6 on DVD with an all-new English dub. Before we have a look at the cast, you can read my season one and two reviews for more background on the series by clicking on them and/or go watch the show yourself for free over on Crunchyroll!

You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for a U.S. release of this show . . .

Art book available in the Limited Edition release.

Our main man Inaho Kaizuka is voiced by Max Mittelman. He’s fairly new to voice acting if I am correct, but he brings a fresh breath to the nearly-silent protagonist. Natsuki Hanae did a fine job, don’t get me wrong! But Mittelman uses a little more expression when he speaks, and that means all the world considering that Inaho acts like a pre-recorded message. So far so good!

The passionate drama bomb Slaine Troyard is voiced by Zach Aguilar, another newbie, I think. His intense breathing and airy voice try to compensate for Kensho Ono’s higher pitched, younger sound, but it’s still not as good as the Japanese dub. The acting was great, his voice was just too low. I should add that by episode 6, his voice really grew on me, and I just hope that in the second set he finally feels comfortable with his role.

Erika Harlacher does a fine job at capturing Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia‘s allure. Sometimes it sounds as if she’s holding back too much air, but I don’t know if that was an acting issue or the sound setup. Solid nevertheless.

Since those are the main three characters, I’ll just list the minors with a brief reaction:

Christina Vee as Rayet Areash – OMG it’s Homura Akemi *heavy breathing*

Erica Mendez as Inko Amifumi – She didn’t sound like Ryuko, but most definitely a rising star in voice acting

Bryce Papenbrook as Calm Craftman – Man, Papenbrook can pull off the best young “fiery” guy-friend voice ever, awesome!

Christine Marie Cabanos as Nina Klein – “Right or left or right or left or . . .” not too shabby, high voice matches character

Bobby Thong as Okisuke Mikuni – Gets sucked up in the first 5 minutes, good I guess

Erica Lindbeck as Yuki Kaizuka – She does a great older sister, like damn 😉

Matt Mercer as Lt. Marito – The last time I heard Mattew was actually in person at a con, so hehehe makes a good alcoholic

Ethan Murray as Soma Yagarai – Yep, he sounds like a doctor to me

Julie Ann Taylor as Darzana Magbaredge – She’s ironically missing that low edge like in the Japanese, but still a nice performance

Trina Loo as Kaoru Mizusaki – Not much to say here other than she’s Magbaredge’s b*tch

Sandy Fox as Eddelrittuo*gasps, shreeks* come here you tiny little cute puffy servant you, wait, you didn’t read that

Lex Lang as Count Cruhteo – Wow, we need this guy more often! So majestic, so bold

Kirk Thornton as Count Saazbaum – Another powerful voice, one of my favorites to listen to!

Todd Haberkorn as Trillram – YESSS WE NEED MORE SASSY HABERKORN

Patrick Seitz as Vlad – This and Trillram were probably the best rolls cast, that rich gurgly low voice is what more actors should strive for

Kyle McCarley as Kisaki Matsuribi – Very similar to Inaho’s boring dialect, only not as memorable

Lucien Dodge as Yutaro Tsumugi – I honestly didn’t realize how much of a pervert this character was until I watched this English dub *glasses gleam*

Alan Lee as Shigo Kakei – I mean, he’s a background character, what can you expect

Carrie Keranen as Countess Femieanne – It was racking my brain as I watched the whole episode, but then it dawned on me. ALL HAIL LADY SATSUKI! She’s also Mami Tomoe, which I didn’t realize. Fabulous acting!

Geoffrey Chalmers as Rayregalia Vers Rayvers – He nailed the old king voice for sure, well done

Below is the English Dub Trailer Aniplex posted a while back. See it for yourself!

And here is their cheesy little yet humerous English Cast Promotional video announcing their presence at the 2015 Anime Expo. Dorky as it was, it made me realize something: There are actually two heroes of the story; two different eyes to watch the show through. Remembering this makes me want to rewrite my reviews, or revisit the franchise in a future post because I enjoy it so much. 😀

As you can see, I am really pleased with how the English dub was executed! Besides Slaine’s slightly low voice, everyone else was pretty well cast. Now I have to wait until October for the second set to be released . . .  that’s an awful long wait 😦 I hope they decide to dub the second season, despite it’s disappointment, as I’d love to watch it all over again! I do think that the set is worth picking up for hardcore fans of the series, despite the DVD being $30 for only six episodes. It was so much fun watching an episode each night before I went to sleep . . and now it’s over. Thanks for reading this rather different post! Did you enjoy a step away from reviews? How do you think the A.Z English dub fares compared to the Japanese? Personally, I thought it was much better/easier to watch in English. Channel your thoughts to the comments below, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

ALDNOAH.ZERO 2nd Season

One of the most controversial anime to come out these past couple of seasons finally comes to a close. But who comes out on top? Slaine fans get “Slained” and you Inaho dogs, just sit there and don’t smile. Nah, I’m just kidding! Caution: Spoilers for both seasons are present!

Picking up from the first half’s suspenseful ending, silent protagonist Inaho undergoes a surgery that connects some sort of calculating machine into his shot eye. No. He’s not dead, but the thing’s pretty cool. The Deucalion suits up for battle, and while the Terrans celebrate their temporary “victory” / prepare for any Martian activity, the Martians step up their game.

As Slaine, the Terran-born Vers soldier accompanies Count Saazbaum, who seeks revenge on Earth, an “accident” occurs and Saazbaum is killed. In an attempt to restore the Vers Empire and reclaim the blue planet, Slaine ascends to Count status and primitively the throne with a new gal who literally came out of NOWHERE, wheel-chair-bound, lavender-haired Princess Lemrina.

Rather than stand by twiddling their thumbs, the Terrans take the fight to the Martians, and an all-out space war rages! But the fate of the two races ultimately resides in Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia, whose preserved body in Martian Custody slowly reawakens . . . a bullet to the brain and she didn’t die either. Damn.

I’ll admit – I really enjoyed the first season, especially the end. Sure the plot and characters went downhill after the first 6 or so episodes, but it kept me thrilled to see what would happen next.

Season two is a bit different, however. First the pros. The show starts stronger than ever before with the inclusion of Asseylum’s sister Lemrina was probably one of the series’ best moves. While my favorite moments in the first season were obviously the glamorous, high-energy robot battles, season two’s were the drama talks among the Martian hierarchy. The manipulative Lemrina is an essential part of Slaine’s motive for justice, for she can change her appearance to mirror Seylum’s, masking any idea that Seylum had died. In turn, she is a thorn in his side, desiring his affection and secretly wishing that she could replace her comatose sister for good. Though these additions couldn’t save the series in the end, the spicy and dramatic relationships really turned up the emotional dial for this sequel – I only wish I could’ve see more of Lemrina.

Now the cons. The plot is an obvious wreck. Poor pacing, bad balance of characters, and a much different (lesser) tone than the first half resulted in a LACKLUSTER ENDING. Seriously, after two seasons of killer alien robots and explosive combat and emotions – no one died. Not even any of Inaho’s friends took the fall. I’m not saying that death is a good thing in anime; it’s simply that ALDNOAH.ZERO went through a lot of trouble and no one bit the bullet.

Overall, season two values a softer and more emotional approach to a very different story. While the franchise still retains its innumerable plot holes, lacks proper character attention, and frankly sh*ts on its own design, A.Z is still passes as a decent tragedy.

Characters, what’s to say? The sequel drops any supporting Terrans, so you can all forget about Inaho’s friends. Well, maybe besides Inko and his sis. That Marito guy doesn’t even get any follow up to his problems, whatever they were. Just poor balance of characters.

More of the Martian counts are introduced as distinct personalities, which ties back to one of the greater things this sinking ship of a show offered. Their intense qualms regarding loyalty to the almighty dick Slaine made for more interesting views.

Inaho is still pretty meh. He still swoops in to take out the Counts, calibrating all of their weaknesses and eliminating them in the last second. His eye causes him suffering, but he endures the pain for the computer’s benefits. One part of the show really startled me, and that was the smooth transition from Inaho to the eye “talking” to Seylum. Supposedly, the eye grew a consciousness of its own or something cause it carried out Inaho’s last words to the Princess. Just goes to confirm Inaho is nearly no different than a robot, cause I hardly noticed the shift in dialogue – and they even stated it.

It felt really weird when Asseylum woke up from her coma, as if Lemrina’s whole world came crashing down on her – and it kinda did. Too bad Asseylum wasn’t as near as complex as Lemrina, for she remained the same old boring, dutiful Princess. However, she grew some balls in the end and surprised everyone. When that happened, A.Z woke up from its nightmare and ended things right then and there.

Slaine was by far the most developed, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. He went from being an obedient servant of the Vers monarchy to a stubborn, stuck up b*tch. I guess it proves once again the power is greed trope. I can distinctly recall him saying that he had pretty much started down the road to hell, and that there was no turning back. His decisions make absolutely no sense; he does retarded stuff, and in the end gets blamed for everything that happened. Humanity will remember that the whole war was because of him. Like . . . wut?

A-1 Pictures’ animation didn’t drop in quality whatsoever. It’s still pretty solid, so if you’re one for the Kataphrakt CGI fights, then you’ll be satisfied. Characters are colored in lighter tints to contrast the black nothingness of space. I love the characters and their expressions! Also, the Martian Kataphrakts are freakin’ cool, even if their design makes little to no sense.

The OP “&Z” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki mirrors the softer appeal the anime presents while the ED “GENESIS” by Eir Aoi, to me, captures the downfall of Slaine and the ultimate tragedy of the show. Beautiful.

Hiroyuki Sawano continues to impress with touching, somber piano solos and full orchestra tracks. Though the small OST is repeated over and over again to where you can predict what song will play next, the tracks are still great, supporting the mood admirably. His attempt to milk what he could out of A.Z wasn’t in vain; there are several touching moments centered around Slaine, Asseylum, Inaho and Lemrina that were particularly beautiful despite their relevance to the plot.

If you watched ALDNOAH.ZERO’s first season, then go ahead if you haven’t already and finish this thing off. To others, I would avoid this franchise in general for its inconsistent plot, poor distribution of character development, and at times nonsensical scheming. The show is not bad, it’s just messy, and I would only watch it if you are searching for high-energy, well-animated, robot space combat or political drama, though do realize that that part eventually goes down the drain. I’m glad ALDNOAH.ZERO is over. It’s just a shame that the writers couldn’t learn from their mistakes – the show had A LOT of potential.

I guess that’s it. THE ANIME DOESN’T END HORRIBLY WHATSOEVER. If you watched A.Z, please leave a comment below with any of your thoughts. I’m a bit lost when it comes to this show. If you had similar musings, hit the like button for more anime reviews. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host