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Porco Rosso [DVD]
Porco Rosso [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hayao Miyazaki
Price: £7.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Studio Ghibli Reviews 3: Porco Rosso, 25 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Porco Rosso [DVD] (DVD)
Not only was this the highest grossing Japanese film in 1992, but it holds a very special place in the heart of its creator, Hayao Miyazaki. As well as being a master filmmaker, Miyazaki has always had a special passion for planes. He even named his studio after an Italian fighter plane from the Second World War - although the pronunciation of 'Ghibli' is a little different. Miyzaki's love of planes also went on to inspire his final animated film 'The Wind Rises' (2013), which is about the life of Jiro Horikoshi - a famous WWII plane designer. 'Porco Rosso' was such a pleasure for Miyazaki to create that he even considered doing a sequel to it - which would've been the only sequel ever made by Studio Ghibli. But although such a sequel was never made it really wasn't necessary for there to be one. 'Porco Rosso' is one of Hayao Miyazaki's greatest works and is considered a valuable addition to the Studio Ghibli collection.
The story is about Porco/Marco, an ex-war pilot turned bounty hunter, who is cursed into having the appearance of a pig. Porco earns his living by flying the skies and foiling the schemes of sea-plane pirates, whilst trying to avoid the Italian government, who are out to get him for abandoning the Air Force. His bounty-hunting business comes under threat when an American pilot turns up and forms an alliance with the pirates to take him down. Now Porco has to tune up his plane and face his new rival in the ultimate dog fight.
As far as the story goes, it's quite interesting in general, with a good mixture of action, fantasy, romance and humour. The settings in it are also really beautiful and give the audience a true sense that they're witnessing an Italian-themed movie. Plus, although there are some adult themes contained within it (e.g. war and violence) they are managed quite well, making it a pleasurable movie for both kids and adults to watch.
If there's anything I'd have to criticise about the story, however, it would be that there are some parts of it which feel a bit weak and incomplete by the movie's conclusion. In particular, its never really explained how or why Porco was cursed into becoming a pig - he just is a pig, who used to be human, and that's what makes the story a fantasy. There are also several side-stories which serve almost nothing to the main plot, and some characters don't have enough screen time to develop properly. In fact, the ending to the movie itself feels a little open-ended, despite explanation of what happened after the climax. Nonetheless, the movie is still fun and interesting for all the family to watch.
For me, what's powerful about 'Porco Rosso' isn't so much the story itself, but some of its meanings. I find that whenever I watch an anime - even if the main character is male - I focus more on the female leads, because there is so much more that can be done with them. When I watch 'Porco Rosso', I find that my focus is more on Fio. In one part of the movie, Porco is reluctant to allow her to help with his plane because she's a young woman. But she proves that she has impressive skills, and is able to do a fine job of improving his plane. She even turns out to be a valuable ally when it comes to dealing with enemies. She is just one of many strong female leads presented in Studio Ghibli films, who seem more valuable to the story than any of their male counterparts.
Another message presented in the film is one that is universal. Fio asks Porco what makes someone a true professional. He admits that it's not experience that matters, but intuition. What this means is that all you really need to succeed in life, is to have enough passion for what you want to do, and have the skills to do it well. This message was even given back to Hayao Miyazaki himself when he was against his inexperienced son, Goro, directing 'Tales of Earthsea' (2006).
One final thing that's worth mentioning about Porco Rosso are some of the voice actors in the English dub. Amongst these actors are some that have supplied their voices in other Studio Ghibli English dubs, such as Cary Elwes ('Whisper of the Heart'/'The Cat Returns'), Susan Egan ('Spirited Away') and David Ogden Stiers ('Spirited Away'). There are also others like Frank Welker and Kevin Michael Richardson.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of Studio Ghibli and wants to see a prime example of what they can do to make a movie so great.
My next Studio Ghibli review will be on 'Pom Poko'. Stay tuned.


The Cat Returns [DVD]
The Cat Returns [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hiroyuki Morita
Price: £8.60

3.0 out of 5 stars Studio Ghibli Reviews 2: The Cat Returns, 7 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Cat Returns [DVD] (DVD)
This was the first Studio Ghibli film to be released after the academy award-winning, 'Spirited Away' (2001). And judging from a lot of things about 'The Cat Returns', it's clear that the animation company was trying to go for something a little bit different this time around. Differences from 'Spirited Away' included having an older heroine, an animation style that was brighter and more child-friendly (almost like that seen in 'My Neighbour Totoro'), and a shorter running time of about 75mins. The decision to make a movie like this after 'Spirited Away' may have been a good choice. Obviously, Studio Ghibli still wants to make movies that are going to be successful. But topping 'Spirited Away' would be a huge challenge if they tried to do it with their next instalment, which is why 'The Cat Returns' is written with a simpler plot, and avoids anything too complex that would make it a repeat of its predecessor. This isn't to say that Studio Ghibli weren't trying to make this film a success; it just helps to give their fans a breath of fresh air after the sensation of 'Spirited Away' - and a couple of their other movies before it. 'The Cat Returns' is the first 'U' rated Studio Ghibli film since 1989's 'Whisper of the Heart'.
Speaking of 'Whisper of the Heart', 'The Cat Returns' is actually a spin-off of this classic, with returning characters Baron Humbert von Gikkingen and Muta/Renaldo Moon appearing in the movie - there is even a portrait of the Baroness. In 'Whisper of the Heart' the main character, Shizuku Tsukishima, attempts to write a story based on a cat statue she finds in an antic shop. 'The Cat Returns' is best described as the kind of story she would eventually publish.
The film itself is centred on Haru, a stressful, occasionally klutzy girl, who is barely able to keep up with her teenage life. One day, after saving the life of a cat (a prince from the Cat Kingdom), she is 'rewarded' for her efforts by the Cat King and his servants. However, their ideas of repayment don't suit Haru very well, and only succeed in causing her trouble. To top it off, they plan on giving her the 'ultimate reward' - turning her into a cat and marrying her to their prince. Wanting none of this, the only way for Haru to get out of her troubling predicament is to seek help from 'The Baron', in a place known as the Cat Bureau.
I remember seeing foreign trailers for this movie and wanting to know what it was called, so I could watch the English Dub. And I wasn't disappointed when I finally did get to see it. The plot, though simple, really delivers on the story it's trying to tell. It's funny in a lot of places, with the cats' outrageous antics, Haru's reactions, and the crazy, fast-paced action.
There is also something of a fairy-tale feel to 'The Cat Returns'. It's the kind of film that sticks in your mind, and you'd remember watching it as a child. I found myself comparing it to movies like 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'The Nutcracker' at one point.
If there's one thing I'd have to criticise about the story though, it's that I'm not entirely sure what the main message of it is. Usually, Studio Ghibli films have one main focus (or universal message) that drives the plot forward. In 'The Cat Returns', however there seems to be several - and it's hard to tell where they all develop. These messages include Haru finding the world she truly belongs to, learning to believe in her decisions, and discovering the value of good choices despite their consequences. With all this going on it's really hard to tell where the main focus of the story is meant to be - and what the most important message is. But they're all good messages at least.
One final thing that's worth mentioning about 'The Cat Returns' is some of the voice actors used in the English Dub. A lot of them are really good, like Anne Hathaway (as Haru), Kristen Bell (as Hiromi) and Cary Elwes (as The Baron) - who also voiced The Baron in 'Whisper of the Heart'. Others like Elliot Gould and Peter Boyle (Toto and Muta, respectively) really add well to the humour. But the actor who really stood out for me, was Tim Curry as the Cat King. His portrayal of the character as an un-kingly womaniser was just so entertaining and memorable that you could easily remember every line he said in his macho voice.
Overall, I really enjoy 'The Cat Returns'. It has beautiful animation, fitting voice actors and a story that makes something special out of something simple. I'm not sure it's as good as the other Studio Ghibli films released after 'Spirited Away', but it's certainly a classic worth watching and showing to your children - much like 'My Neighbour Totoro'.
My next Studio Ghibli review will be on 'Porco Rosso'. Stay tuned.


Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [DVD]
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hayao Miyazaki
Price: £8.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Studio Ghibli Review 1: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, 4 Oct 2014
This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of reviews I get to post on the different films made by Studio Ghibli. Just to let you know, these reviews will be based on the English Dubs - or in a couple of cases, the English Subs - of these movies. Also, rather than reviewing the films in the order they were released, I'll be watching them based on the numbering system of their American/UK DVD covers. What they're supposed to represent, I really don't know. But it makes for good variety. So after this, the next Studio Ghibli film review will be on the 'Cat Returns'. Anyway...
'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where the industries of mankind have been wiped out, and the world is ravaged by toxic plants and giant insects. One valley is protected by the winds of the sea, and its people look to the leadership of their young princess, Nausicaa, for guidance into a better future.
Like most Studio Ghibli films, 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' uses a universal subject as the basis of its story, and presents it in a way that's both creative and original for the audience to understand. In this case, we are given an environmental message and the movie allows us to see what our future may look like if we continue our mismanagement of the planet.
One thing that really drives the story forward is the portrayal of it's main character, princess Nausicaa (voiced by Alison Lohman). The majority of the movie appears to focus on the decisions she makes, and all the other characters, both young and old, seem to look up to her with great admiration. Far from being a typical feminine princess, Nausicaa is a daring, strong-willed girl, with a passion for protecting her valley and maintaining peace with the insects of the toxic jungle. Despite her youth, she is highly skilled in a variety of things, and her knowledge of how to deal with dire situations makes her seem wiser than most people twice her age. She also has an air of cheerfulness, which makes her a good role model for young children, while at the same time she suppresses a silent rage that can suddenly turn her into an aggressive warrior that's capable of killing.
Being all these things, it's little wonder why Nausicaa's name is in the title of the movie. She is the first of many strong, female leads to be featured in the Studio Ghibli films, and she almost sets the standard for what a heroine should be. The only issue with there being so much focus on Nausicaa is that the story appears to rely solely on her, to the point where the other characters just feel like extensions of her and don't really fulfil their roles in the movie. Obaba is the wise old woman of the valley, though Nausicaa is wise herself; Lord Yupa seems to be a mentor, though Nausicaa is independent enough already; Tato (the fox-squirrel) merely acts as a pet and does nothing but look cute around Nausicaa; and even Asbell (the boy from Pejite that Nausicaa meets) is just there...because. As a result the story does feel weak and linear in some places, with little happening between the few action sequences that take place.
The story can also be a little confusing at times when it comes to distinguishing friends and foes. There are two different groups of people featured in the film other than those from the Valley of the Wind: the Tolmekians and the Pejites. Even after watching the film several times it's still hard to tell the two apart from each other.
Another thing I'd like to mention is the music of the film. The main theme tune, and another, are played numerous times throughout the movie. Both are mystical and enjoyable to listen to, which helps to make the movie memorable. But as for the other pieces of music featured, they sound like something out of a video game and don't really fit the scene's mood quite right most of the time.
One final thing that's worth mentioning is some of the actors that took part in the English Dub of this film. These include Star Trek actor, Peter Stewart (as Lord Yupa), Shia LaBeouf (as Asbell), and renowned voice actor, Frank Welker (as Gol). One of my personal favourites, however, is Chris Sarandon. His performance as Kurotowa, with his dialogue, is just so memorable and funny.
What's interesting about 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' is that some people don't actually consider it a Studio Ghibli film. Although it's made by Hayao Miyazaki and the rest of his crew, the animation company didn't officially come into existence until two years after the film's initial release. But since the DVD release has the Studio Ghibli logo on it...it technically counts. But whether 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' is officially part of the Studio Ghibli collection or not, it's clear from start to finish who created it. It was the first true masterpiece from the famed studio and filmmaker, and it set the standard for all other Studio Ghibli films that followed it. If you're a fan of Hayao Miyazaki and his work, then it's defiantly worth seeing the film that started it all for his studio. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you'll enjoy the rest of my Studio Ghibli reviews. Stay tuned.


Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney  (3DS)
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS)
Price: £32.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Fun but a lot of Pressure, 4 Oct 2014
Before I begin this review - which is actually my first 'games' review - I'd just like to say that, in all fairness, this game probably doesn't deserve the 2-star rating I've given it. I'm actually a big fan of the 'Professor Layton' games, and the 2009 anime movie, 'Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva'. The reason I've given this game a low rating might be because I was just unprepared for the 'Ace Attorney' sections of it. Until I got this game, out of devotion to the 'Professor Layton' series, I had neither played nor heard of any of the games in the 'Ace Attorney' series. Because of this, I had absolutely no idea about what to expect when I wasn't solving puzzles with Luke and Layton. The game's previous owner - I got a 'used' copy - seemed to have the same problem as me, because the only saved game file that was on it said they'd never passed the first 'Ace Attorney' chapter.
I will be reviewing this game as a fan of the 'Professor Layton' series. My apologies to any 'Ace Attorney' fans if I seem bias because I haven't played any of the other games in that series.
First of all, for what it is, 'Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright' is really impressive when it comes to creativity. The story is exactly what you'd expect from a Professor Layton game: with memorable characters; a world that's interesting - if a little farfetched at times - and a plot that's both mysterious and easy to follow - and keeps the player guessing at what they think the big revelation will be at the end. However, it's clear early on that the story isn't quite as family friendly as the stories presented in other 'Layton' games. It can get really dark, to the point where you actually think you're witnessing the death of some of the characters. It also depicts strangling, poisoning, large fires and more. I understand that they had to make the game more serious to go with the seriousness of lawyering and Phoenix Wright, but it can be really off-putting to someone who's used to a series where all you have to do is go around investigating strange disturbances and completing puzzles to solve it. On a positive note, the puzzles are just as fun and enjoyable as in any of the other 'Layton' games - even though there's fewer of them.
Then there are the 'Ace Attorney' sections of the game. I will say this. Nick and Maya are very likeable as characters, and it's easy to see the comparisons between them and Layton and Luke. One is the professional doing his job and pointing his finger dramatically, and the other is a lovable sidekick, who has a large appetite and skills that come in handy in tough situations. It's easy to see why these two franchises work so well together. However, whereas adventures and puzzle-solving are lovable joys of mine, I can't say the same about having to be lawyer.
This is perhaps the main reason why I have given this game a low rating. I don't really like to be put under a lot of pressure - either in games or real life. But in the trials, this is exactly what I get. You really feel like you're in the courtroom with high powers working against you. Unless you're an attorney in real life and know lawyering like the back of your hand, or have knowledge beyond that which is known to man, you have to pay extra close attention to everything that's being said, shown and presented to you, so that you can stand even the slightest chance of finding a contradiction, and presenting the right evidence. To add to the pressure, if you slip up too many times, there's a chance your client will be found guilty for something they didn't do. And if THAT wasn't pressure enough, most of your clients won't simply be sent to jail if they're found guilt - they'll be put to death! By fire! Forget being the lawyer, half the time I felt like I was the one on trial! I was so worried about doing something wrong that I actually had to resort to cheating - that is, I looked on YouTube at walkthroughs of the game and saw what the answers were before giving them. I didn't do this all the time, but sometimes the hint coins just weren't enough. As a result, I was always extremely nervous about playing the game. On the one hand I wanted to see it through to the conclusion, so I did my best to get past the trials and back to playing the 'Layton' chapters. But I knew the more I played, the closer I'd get to another trial, where someone's very life depended on my amateur skills as a defence attorney. I was so relieved when the last trial was done.
Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright may be professionals in two completely different types of work, but 'Level 5' and 'Capcom' did well to blend them together in an adventure that shows off both their skills, excessively. There are even moments when Nick and Maya do the puzzle-solving, and Luke and Layton take to the lawyer's podium. Plus, at the heart of the game, is the character that brings the professor and the attorney together: Espella Cantabella. I won't reveal too much about her, but the mystery that surrounds her is what drives the game to its success.
One final thing that's worth noting is the extra content. If you buy the game now and complete it (12 months after its initial release) you can use the WiFi feature to unlock special concept art and episodes. The extra episodes do something no other 'Layton' game has ever done before: as well as revisiting locations in the game and giving you a puzzle to solve, the characters seem to break the fourth wall by speaking directly to the player, and explaining a little bit about how the game was made and the decisions taken during production. It's worth checking out.
Overall, I can't say I hate this game, but I can't say it's my favourite in the Professor Layton series either. I'd say it's rating is more like 2 1/2-stars or even 3-stars. My advise to any 'Layton' fans who are interested in buying this game is don't buy it expecting it to be like the other games in the series. Because if you aren't prepared to work your brains off in the upcoming trials, then you're really going to struggle. I can't speak for any 'Ace Attorney' fans because, like I said, I'm reviewing this as a fan of the 'Layton' games. Either way, this game is a good buy for fans of one or both franchises, and it's definitely one of the most interesting crossover games in recent memory.


Squid Girl Complete Series Collection [DVD]
Squid Girl Complete Series Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ayumi Fujimura
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Inkvasion? Take a look and Sea Water you Ink., 8 Sep 2014
Judging from the title, you might think that 'Squid Girl' is about a girl who looks like a squid and has an all round squid-like personality. And well...you're right. That's all there really is to it. But, whilst the concept of this series is quite straight-forward, as a whole it can be quite enjoyable - as long as you're susceptible to various genres.
I first noticed this DVD in an HMV store and decided it was worth buying after watching a couple of clips of it online. I wouldn't say it's the greatest anime I've ever seen, but for what it is, it's a good series. And I definitely felt I'd gotten my money's worth. (It's almost a shame that the second season isn't available in Europe.)
Here's a rundown of the series and some of its characters.
The main character of the series is a humanoid squid - literally named 'Squid Girl' - who has come to the surface with the intention of...conquering humanity? Basically, she's angry at the human race for its years of mistreating and polluting the sea. You can tell that this anime has 'environmental message' written all over it. And, admittedly, having the message about the sea, rather than a forest, does make it feel the same but different. However, Squid Girl usually focuses less on trying to protect the sea, and more on trying to conquer humanity (as is shown in the first two episodes), and overall the environmental message doesn't feel very strong.
Initially, you might think her intentions sound very threatening, considering that she seems to want to destroy the human race. But here's the thing. Squid Girl isn't very threatening at all. In fact, she's a loveable character. She talks a big game and possess inhuman powers, but it's clear that she's come to the surface unprepared and has no clue how to go about conquering humanity. Only moments after arriving, in fact, she breaks a hole in the wall of the 'Lemon Beach House' (a seaside cafe) and she is 'bullied' by the store's manager, Eiko Aizawa (a teenager), and her older sister Chizuru (the head chef), into working for them until she pays off the damage - which is where the series begins from. Since she's unable to handle just two teenagers (as well as their friends and customers) it's almost impossible to take Squid Girl seriously as a threat to humanity. If I had to sum her up, Squid Girl is like an annoying little sister, who enjoys pretending she'll be Prime Minister one day, and you just can't believe she'll do it, no matter how intently she speaks of it.
Some of the other characters in the series are enjoyable to watch, though some might say they are just one-dimensional friends, comic reliefs or love interests.
Eiko is the stronger-minded of the Aizawa sisters, who enjoys video games and hates studying; Chizuru is the kinder sister, who is good-natured, but has a fearsome personality if provoked; Takeru is the typical younger brother, who always wants to play with 'Squid Girl' (or "Squid Girly" as he calls her); Sanae is Eiko's female friend who has an almost perverted crush on Squid Girl; Nagisa is a part-time employee at the Lemon Beach House, and is the only one to take Squid Girl's threats to humanity seriously; and Cindy Campbell and her "Three Stooges" are over-the-top scientists, who are intent on proving Squid Girl is an Alien.
A couple of other things I want to mention about this series is its layout and extra features.
Each episode of 'Squid Girl' is broken up into three separate mini-stories, which all last just under 10 minutes. Most have little or nothing to do with each other - except for the last two mini-stories, which are two haves of the same story (episode 12). The stories themselves focus on either Squid Girl coming up with an elaborate scheme to concur humanity, or her learning something new about the surface world, with help from the Aizawa family. Overall, the genre of these episodes appears to be comedy/slice of life, though occasionally they slip into other genres such as sport, horror and science fiction. It's almost like the writers weren't exactly sure who they wanted the series to appeal to. Though perhaps this is a good thing, because it makes the anime enjoyable for almost everyone. There's even a couple of extra OVAs on the DVD which follow the adventures of a miniature version of Squid Girl called...well...Mini Squid Girl.
One final thing I'd like to mention about the series is its humour. A lot of the jokes revolve around making numerous squid, water and ink puns which can be funny at times, but can also fall flat and get repetitive. There are some other humorous moments in the series as well, such as Nagisa's fear of Squid Girl, Sanae's eccentric behaviour, and Squid Girl's antics often coming back to bite her. I'd say the series funny, but not down-right hilarious.
It's hard form me to recommend this series to a specific group of fans, because I honestly don't know who it's meant for. There's an environmental message, but it's not very strong, and there are funny moments, but they're not all hilarious. Just give the series a try yourself and see what you think. I certainly thought it was Squidtastic.


Moon Phase Phase 6 [2004] [DVD]
Moon Phase Phase 6 [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Akiyuki Shinbo
Offered by Direct-Offers-UK-FBA
Price: £2.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Moon Phase Review: Part 6 (Full Moon), 3 Sep 2014
This is the last of my six-part review for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase'.
The final 4 episodes can be cut into two halves. The first two episodes (23 and 24) are the climax of the series, showing the characters battling their innermost demons, and ultimately testing their love and loyalty to each other. The stakes are raised and the tension is good - though some fans may not feel it's as tense as the final conflict between the characters and Count Kinkell earlier in the series (Episode 13, Volume 3).
The last two episodes (25 and 26) are non-climactic, and only focus on the lives of the characters after the danger has past. Given some of the darker elements leading up to the finale, however, having a purely light-hearted ending was the best way to conclude the series, in my opinion.
The only criticism I would give this volume is that the climax, while intense, does seem a bit too easily resolved. Plus, any fans of conflict might find that the last two episodes offer very little to them.
As for me, I feel the episodes of Volume 6 do well to round up the series and they really help to show the pinnacle of the characters' development. This is especially so for Hazuki. In the beginning, she was a cute, but bratty and immature, vampire, who often manipulated and distrusted people. In the last two episodes, however, we see that she has come to love her surrogate family very much, and she has matured to the point of being a loving older sister to Arte - even Hikaru admits she's a natural at it.
Another thing I want to mention about the last two episodes is that Kauro, Arte and Haiji (aka Brina Palencia, Carrie Savage and Luci Christian) all seem to be trying to out-cute each other for the finale. Kauro fails miserably with her pitiful cat-girl routine; Arte does better with her youth and innocence; but the clear winner for me is Haiji. Haiji is exposed to humiliation, threatens to cause mischief, and - in her cutest moment ever - sings her 'Scrubby Dubby' Song in episode 26. I may've made a mistake in my last review (Part 5) when I said that Arte singing the 'Neko Mimi' nursery rhyme was my favourite moment in the series. If you listen Haiji's "Scrubby Dubby" Song you'll know what I mean.
Finally, I want to give an overview of episode 26 (which is technically an OVA, and not meant to be taken as a serious part of the series). Here's a quick summary: the Mido family house is inexplicably floating out at sea; Seji is uncharacteristically paranoid; Elfriede and Grandpa Mido are uncharacteristically lovey-dovey; Atre is desperate for attention; Hiromi swims with the Dolphins (literally); the Mido twins are there; Haiji is at her most vulnerable; and Hazuki and Kouhei are ... well, just Hazuki and Kouhei. Basically, if you thought the 'Neko Mimi' opening credits were random, this episode takes randomness to a whole new level. Sometimes it looks like it's being filmed in an actual studio (complete with unconvincing props) and by the end of the episode the characters are in the belly of a whale (literally).
It was well worth the wait for all 6 DVDs to be made available on Amazon. Watching the series back, it's understandable why some people would call Monica Rial "The Queen of Anime". With more than 300 different voice-acting roles under her belt (including 'Moon Phase'), it's little wonder why she's (currently) the "most prolific voice actor in the United States," (Watchmojo.com). I think now she and Luci Christian are tied for my favourite anime voice actress.
For one final time: my recommendations for this DVD (and the series as a whole) are as follows. Be sure to buy it if you're a fan of Funimation Entertainment, 'Negima', cosplay and 'Neko Mimi' (cat ears). I hope you've enjoyed my reviews. And I hope you enjoy 'Moon Phase' - if all the Volumes are made available again. See you at another of my reviews.


Moon Phase - Phase 5 [DVD]
Moon Phase - Phase 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laura Bailey

4.0 out of 5 stars Moon Phase Review: Part 5 (Gibbous Moon), 1 Sep 2014
This review is from: Moon Phase - Phase 5 [DVD] (DVD)
This is the fifth (and second-to-last) of my six-part review for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase'.
I like this volume for a number of reasons. The first is that it appeals to a certain fan base. I said in my last review that Volume 4 is for the cosplay fans. Volume 5 is similar, only it's more for the 'Neko Mimi' (cat ear) lovers. Throughout the series we've seen "cat ear buns", Hazuki in cat costumes, and numerous other feline references - even Elfriede dons the cat ears in episode 17. Things are taken a step further in this volume, with almost every other scene playing homage to 'Neko Mimi'; archways and mountains are designed to look like them, whilst more characters try on the ears, including Arte, a monkey, and Kauro - although the latter's efforts to be cute fall flat for me, and Hikaru accurately describes her as "a pathetic, whiny, little cat-girl". (By the way, in that scene, look out for the 'deliberate', 'in-shot' boom mic - we see more of these supposed 'studio blunders' in the last episode.)
Another thing I like about this volume is the way it properly introduces us to Arte - the young, pink-haired vampire who (spoiler alert) is later revealed to be Hazuki's half-sister. Aside from Haiji (and not including Hazuki herself) Arte might be my favourite character in 'Moon Phase', because she has an air of innocence to her that's loveable, but also a darker side that's more intimidating. Half the time you don't know whether to love Arte or fear her when she's on screen. She's certainly different from any other vampire we've seen in the series so far - not to mention the only one since Count Kinkell who hasn't worn an animal mask.
Another thing I like about Arte is the unique background story she brings to the series. I think it's something that real half-sisters can relate to and learn from, given the right circumstances. Arte and Hazuki are alike in someways - e.g. sharing a fascination for cat ears and Kouhei - but Arte hates Hazuki for being given more love and attention. This volume (and Volume 6), explore how jealous and hateful feelings can be resolved between siblings.
The decision to introduce Arte late into the series, was a good one in my opinion, because she's given just enough character development to be a strong lead, whilst also giving the existing characters further development - particularly Hazuki. She's no 'Cousin Oliver', if you know what I mean.
There are a few more things I'd like to mention about this volume. The first is the end credits. Aside from the fact that they keep mis-crediting Carrie Savage's character as 'Aruto' (instead of Arte), the regular credits (featuring the still shot of Hazuki against a red backdrop) no longer appear. Instead, the first episode of Volume 5 features a still shot of the Mido Twins, 'trying' to look cute. And every episode after that features Hazuki in a ballet dress dancing on the moon - until Volume 6's last two episodes.
Secondly, we are introduced to a mysterious masked stranger and a woman in a black veil in this volume. But it's pretty obvious who they are. Not only do they not disguise their voices - like Jeda, who sounds a bit like Rorschach (Watchmen) - but episode 20 is called 'Grandfather, Why Are You Dressed Like That?', even though the strangers' identities are no revealed until the next volume. On a side note, why does episode 19 have such a long title? If you buy this volume, you'll know what I mean.
Finally, if I had to pick my favourite moment from this volume, or the series as a whole, it would be when Arte sings the 'Neko Mimi' nursery rhyme in episode 21 - it's just so darn cute.
This has been one of my longer reviews for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase', because it's one of my personal favourites. It's unfortunate that this volume and Volume 4 are expensive, and rarely available on Amazon, because it means very few people get to witness the whole series. Perhaps cosplay and cat ear fans just can't help themselves?
My recommendations for this DVD are the same as for the other volumes. Buy it if you're a fan of Funimation Entertainment, 'Negima', cosplay and - especially for this volume - 'Neko Mimi' (cat ears). The last part is still to come so stay tuned.


Moon Phase - Phase 4 [DVD]
Moon Phase - Phase 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Moon Phase

4.0 out of 5 stars Moon Phase Review: Part 4 (Half Moon - Third Quarter), 27 Aug 2014
This review is from: Moon Phase - Phase 4 [DVD] (DVD)
This is the fourth of my six-part review for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase'.
My opinion on these episodes is that most of them are just 'filler' episodes, which do more to show off the characters' personalities than actually advancing the plot. It's only during the second half of episode 17, and most of episode 18, that things start to take a drastic turn.
Here's a run-down of each of the episodes in order (sorry for any spoilers).
In episode 15, Hazuki is still trying to battle her inner demons (Luna), while Kouhei is clueless as to why the brat is so mad with him. We also see a different side to Elfriede, and for this episode only the 'Neko Mimi Mode' opening credits get a drastic variation - the characters pull funnier expressions and Hazuki is either invisible or absent from them altogether.
Episode 16 has Hazuki and Haiji declaring war on a couple of garden crows for stealing their lunch, and Hazuki becoming a model / cover girl. Anyone who's a fan of cosplay should definitely see this episode - it's cuter than the dressing up scene in episode 7 (volume 2).
Episode 17 has more cosplay - this time with Elfriede - and we get to hear her backstory. The ending to this episode is thwart with disaster.
The last episode on this volume takes place eight months after the events of episode 17, where most of the characters have gone into hiding. This is perhaps my favourite episode of volume 4 because it shows much character development. We are also introduced to Arte (voiced by Carrie Savage), who will play an important role for the rest of the series. The ending to the last episode leaves you wondering what her relation to Hazuki is, and why she hates her.
This volume and volume 5 are two of the hardest DVDs in the series to obtain on Amazon, because of their limited availability. So if you're thinking of buying the whole series as I did, keep a sharp eye out for when volumes 4 and 5 are available - if ever. My recommendations for this DVD are the same as for the other volumes. Buy it if you're a fan of Funimation Entertainment, 'Negima', Neko Mimi (cat ears) and - especially for this volume - cosplay.
By the way, most of you who have read my earlier 'Moon Phase Reviews' (Parts 1, 2 and 3 for their respective volumes) will have noticed that I keep comparing this Anime to 'Negima' (both seasons). The reason for this is not only because it features many of the same voice actrors, but because there are many similarities between the two. These include having a 10-year-old (looking) vampire, a character who is impervious to magic, and a recurring joke where a wash tub falls of people's heads. It's almost like 'Moon Phase' and 'Negima' was made by the same producer or something.


Moon Phase - Phase 3 [DVD]
Moon Phase - Phase 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Moon Phase
Offered by Direct-Offers-UK-FBA
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Moon Phase Review: Part 3 (Half Moon - First Quarter), 24 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Moon Phase - Phase 3 [DVD] (DVD)
This is the third of my six-part review for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase'.
In my last review, I said that things would begin to get a little bit darker from the 8th episode onwards. And this volume really delivers on that. Other than episode 11, which features Hazuki wondering around in a giant Frankenstein Cat costume, all the episodes feature a threat to either her or the people she cares about. She, Kouhei, Elfriede, Hiromi and Grandpa Mido, are all targeted by the diabolical Count Kinkell - who is determined that the 'Vampire's Lover' (Kouhei) be killed and that Hazuki be returned to her castle prison. These episodes really help to show how closely Hazuki has grown to her adopted family - including the Mido twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, and Elfriede, who has become an ally.
This volume also acts as a good ending to the first half of the series, because the imminent threat is gone, we now know the fate of Hazuki's mother, and Hazuki learns something new about herself, which changes her way of life forever. What does she learn? Let's just say she doesn't have a weakness that most normal vampires have.
I am slightly disappointed that the post-credits don't give as many riddles like the first two volumes did, because they're really fun and entertaining to try and work out. (By the way if anyone knows the answer to the riddle at the end of episode 7, volume 2, let me know, because apparently Hazuki wouldn't let Elfriede give the answer.) On a positive side, the opening credits ('Neko Mimi Mode') are as cute and random as ever - fans of the sexier 'MoonPhase Mode' are even treated to it again in episode 14. Another thing that continues staying cute is Haiji - voiced by my favourite anime voice actress, Luci Christian. It doesn't matter if she's cleaning, sleeping, flying or just talking - she's still the most adorable thing ever.
If you have enjoyed the first two volumes of 'Moon Phase', then you'll certainly enjoy this one too - as long as you aren't squeamish, or easily unnerved by blood and violence. I said in a previous review that this would be the last family friendly (PG) volume of 'Moon Phase' and that the rest of the series would be darker (i.e. rated 12). However, this was only because the DVD covers I got for the last three volumes said '12'. I've noticed since that other versions of these covers still say 'PG', so don't feel discouraged about buying them if you've enjoyed the first three volumes - you can judge for yourself if they're family friendly or intimidating.
Also, as I've said before this anime is for any fan of 'Negima', Funimation Entertainment, Neko Mimi (cat ears) or cosplay.
Speaking of that, here's one final piece of trivia for you. You may have noticed in 'Moon Phase' that Hazuki calls Grandpa Mido, "Grandfather" out of affection. What's ironic is that Monica Rial and Randy Tallman have played Granddaughter and Grandfather alongside each other before in another Funimation anime: the first season of 'Negima' as Konoka and "Dean" Konoe respectively.


Moon Phase - Phase 2 [DVD]
Moon Phase - Phase 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Moon Phase
Offered by Direct-Offers-UK-FBA
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Moon Phase Review: Part 2 (Crescent Moon), 23 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Moon Phase - Phase 2 [DVD] (DVD)
This is the second of my six-part review for the different volumes of 'Moon Phase'.
Volume 2 is a personal favourite of mine, because it begins to highlight just how much Hazuki (Monica Rial) is adapting to her new life, and to the people around her. In the beginning (episodes 1-5) we are introduced to Hazuki's personality and we just accept it as who she is. In the second volume (episode 6-10), however, we start to see the consequences of that personality and how it causes her to make bad decisions (e.g. distrusting and manipulating people). This provides Hazuki with the challenge of being more considerate to the people who are nice to her, and proving she doesn't always need to resort to vampire tricks.
The second volume also introduces 3 new main characters - two of which are voiced by my favourite anime voice actress, Luci Christian. The first of her characters is Hikaru, the more mature and outgoing of the Mido twins. Luci and Monica have worked together before on the anime 'Negima' (as Asuna and Konoka respectively). But whereas their characters were best friends in that series, here they are bitter enemies. Hikaru can't stand to be around a "demon-girl", and Hazuki can't stand two younger girls getting in the way of her and her "slave". This resorts in several confrontations in which both Luci and Monica seem to be trying to out-do each other in terms of bitchyness.
The second character Luci voices in 'Moon Phase' is Haiji - who, since episode 6, has become a talking shikigami cat. How the little feline went from being male to female, I have no idea. But seeing her on-screen is always a treat, because she is just so darn cute! Perhaps the cutest little thing I've ever seen in anime - no offence Hazuki. Then again, what would you expect from a character who replaces her L's and R's with W's (e.g. "I'm Sowwy Mastew").
Although, Monica Rial is unquestionably the star of 'Moon Phase', I also feel the series really helps to show off Luci's talents, because, like Monica herself, she is one of few voices actors, in my view, who can successfully pull off being both cute and bitchy - I mean that in a good way.
One final thing I'd like to comment on for Volume 2 are the opening and closing credits. The opening theme 'Neko Mimi Mode', is just so cute and memorable that just watching the opening credits is reason enough to buy 'Moon Phase' on DVD - although I have noticed a constant mistake in which they show Hikaru having black hair and red eyes, instead of blue eyes and hair. For anyone who's not a fan of the regular opening credits and all it's randomness, there's a sexier version at the beginning of episode 9. Lastly, one thing I didn't mention in my first review was that I really enjoy the creative ways they present "To Be Continued" (in Japanese symbols) before the end credits, and the riddles they sometimes give after them: e.g. "Where do animals go when they lose their tails? ... The retail store." (Episode 2)
If you're a fan of 'Negima', Funimation Entertainment, Neko Mimi (cat ears) or cosplay, then you should definitely buy this DVD along with the other volumes in the series (if they all are available on amazon.) In the first part of my review I said this series was family friendly. However, things do begin to get a little darker from episode 8 onwards. And by the fourth volume, it may no longer be considered PG.


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