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    MCM Comicon News and Anime Review Roundup

    A May bank holiday again must mean the first of the year’s London Comicons. I remember what these things were like before social media and smartphones. It’d be almost two days after the event that all the news and license announcements were collated, with press attending the event searching desperately for an Internet connection. These days all the stress is taken out of it, with distributors live-tweeting their announcements as they make them on stage, or ditching the stage event completely and just tweeting. Manga Entertainment, Anime Limited, and MVM were all there this weekend, but as has recently been the case, Manga didn’t have any announcements to make at the expo. So here’s what Anime Limited and MVM brought brought to us.

    Anime Limited

    Amanchu
    Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky
    Gundam 00
    Hayao Miyazaki: Never Ending Man
    Sound Euphonium Season 1
    Angelic Layer
    Cardcaptor Sakura the Movie 2: The Sealed Card
    FLCL Vinyl Soundtrack
    Cowboy Bebop 20th anniversary edition
    Perfect Blue Ultimate Edition

    Analysis: Amanchu is an interesting pick-up, one of the most meme-worthy slice of life anime on the Internet right now. It’s always good to see more Gundam, given that Anime Limited’s initial target to match the US releases just wasn’t feasible with the market size here. Sound Euphonium is an interesting and most welcome announcement. The complete series was initially announced, and then subsequently cancelled when the contract was pulled. Now, Anime Limited have the first season back, and a release date set. After last week’s tranche of cancellations, this makes up for it (I really like Sound Euphonium!). Angelic Layer is an old CLAMP favourite that originally got a DVD release here through ADV. This time it gets the Blu-ray treatment. The second Cardcaptor Sakura movie may seem like an odd choice, but it’s a toe in the water, with the goal of releasing more of the franchise here if conditions prove favourable.

    An ultimate edition of Cowboy Bebop has long been in the cards, and this one will at least have the TV series, the movie, and the whole soundtrack on CD. The movie could use a spruce up, as no English territory release has a lossless surround track, but it may be too soon following the Collector’s Edition releases. Certainly Funimation’s plans for three tiers of ultimate editions being authorised given sufficient pre-orders has been oddly struggling, with only the lowest tier getting anywhere near the 1000 pre-orders it needs to get the go ahead, and even that is still around 100 pre-orders short with just three days to go in the offer. It could conceivably happen that the US doesn’t get an Ultimate Edition Cowboy Bebop at all. Fortunately Anime Limited haven’t set any preconditions on their offering. Finally, and what has me most excited is the Perfect Blue Ultimate Edition, as that release will give the film a whole new transfer based on a new re-master of the original film print. It also gets the film’s soundtrack and a 380 page storyboard book.

    MVM

    Higurashi: When They Cry franchise
    Sagrada Reset
    Bakuon!!
    The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance
    Seven Mortal Sins
    Starmyu franchise

    Analysis: Fans have wanted a UK release of Higurashi: When They Cry ever since the year dot, and at one time, MVM stated that another unnamed UK company held the rights. Not anymore, as this psychological thriller will be coming here later in the year courtesy of MVM, first in a complete Blu-ray collection, followed by the individual series releases (When They Cry, When They Cry Kai, When They Cry Rei) on Blu-ray and DVD.

    Of further intrigue are the final four titles on the list. They are the Funimation titles that Universal held for UK release. My Hero Academia has gone to Funimation/Sony, and you might have expected the rest of the titles to go the same way. But it looks as if Funimation is spreading the burden of its releases around, still releasing a few titles through Anime Limited, some through Sony, some through Manga, and some through MVM as well. Dust Storm Dance is the second season of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, the first season has been released already by Universal. The fate of titles like And You Thought There is Never A Girl Online? and the CG Berserk series remains to be determined.


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    All that, and a full week of anime reviews too. First up was Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale, the continuation of the virtual adventures of Kirito and Asuna. I wasn’t expecting great things from the film; certainly the first series was poor enough to overshadow my positive memories of the second series, but the film turned out to be quite the surprise, and also quite contemporary for the time of its release, catching the augmented reality and Google Glass fad that ever so briefly overtook us a couple of years ago. Click on the review to read more.




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    Next it was the turn of I Couldn’t Become a Hero So I Reluctantly Decided to Get A Job, or Yusibu for short. I get down on fan-service exploitative harem comedies, as they tend to veer towards crass and skanky, a poor reflection on their creators rather than genuine entertainment. But once in a while, the stars align, and a show comes out that can be skeevy and exploitative about young, large-breasted girls, and be entertaining at the same time. It’s finding the right balance between lecherous and milquetoast for the male protagonist, and the right balance between narrative and comedy. Yusibu almost gets it spot-on.




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    Next I took a look at a veteran fan favourite slice of life show, Lucky Star. The formula of four school girls talking about meaningless stuff, doing inconsequential things has become part of anime DNA, but Lucky Star was one of the first such shows, and it was interesting to see where the tropes were laid down, as well as getting to see a show that rode the same hype train to the West as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Click on the review to see if it still has the same first-time viewing impact after all these years, and also to see why I imported the US release when there is a perfectly serviceable UK release available.




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    From one BD upscale to another, as I rounded off the week with a look at the Ultimate Edition of Wolf’s Rain. I love this show. It’s one of the classics of the golden age of anime, before the end of the last boom. It’s an intriguing blend of myth and sci-fi, the tale of the end of the world, and the legends of the wolves that will lead the way to paradise. Character development and narrative on this scale is a rarity in anime, and with a Yoko Kanno soundtrack, Wolf’s Rain is one of the best shows out there. But you’ll have to click on the review to see if the Blu-ray upgrade does the show justice.



    This Week I’ve Been Mostly Rewatching...


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    Black Butler Series 2. Usually when an anime has to diverge from the manga and come up with something original, it results in disaster. Once in a blue moon, it will exceed the original material, but something like Black Butler Series 2 is a less rare outcome, a quality story that does the characters justice, but which proves divisive with the fans. I’m one of the few people that actually preferred Black Butler Series 2 to the original when I first watched it, although when it comes to re-watching it, knowing the twists and turns in advance, it doesn’t quite have the same effect.



    Manga Entertainment released Black Butler Season 2 on DVD here back in 2012, and it’s still available at the time of writing. Here's my review. Given how Aniplex US are reclaiming their licences, it might be worth getting sooner rather than later. The US Funimation Anime Classics combo release is also still available right now, and its Blu-ray discs should be Region B compatible.

    All the Anime release Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale on Collector’s Edition combo, and standard edition BD and DVD today. Their Wolf’s Rain Ultimate Edition comes out today, with a standard edition Blu-ray later on this summer. Funimation released Lucky Star as a BD/DVD combo in 2016. MVM will release Yusibu on DVD and on Blu-ray on 11th June.

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