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Kuma (London)

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Street Fighter Tribute
Street Fighter Tribute
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eclectic Mix of Street Fighter Art, 14 Oct. 2008
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This review is from: Street Fighter Tribute (Paperback)
This work is in many ways the most intriguing and infuriating work that Udon has put together. On one hand it is an exceptional acheivement to have brought so many international artists together to produce a 20th anniversary tribute to Street Fighter, a computer game that has created a whole sub-genre in gaming. On the other hand there are several elements of this work that disappoint or at least don't meet expectation.

First of all, this is a project that UDON ran, and the majority of the art work is not by Udon artists, so for those who have fallen in love with UDONs artwork in streetfighter it is disappointing not to have more artwork from their own in-house team. Secondly the production value for the work is completely different from some of UDONs previous offerings, it is less anime than it is a concept artbook and the actually production of the book itself is not of the same quality of "eternal challenge" or their collected works, it reminds me of the presentation of the animated movies artbook. It was also disappointing that not all the characters got a fair look in, with the art, so Ken, Charlie, E.Honda all lost out while there is an excessive amount of Chun Li and Blanka pictures (though not in the same pictures...)

Anyway enough ranting, perhaps this work is actually a victim of the high standards that UDON set themselves. Some of the artwork is extremely clever and appeals to the artist in you, while others are classic street fighter action.

I will say only buy this if you are a real fan and are interested in the art culture of Street Fighter as it is not a typical UDON production.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2008 9:46 PM GMT

The Roman Republic (Fontana History of the Ancient World)
The Roman Republic (Fontana History of the Ancient World)
by Michael Crawford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great entry point for serious historians, 5 Oct. 2008
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Michael Crawford is an exceptional historian who has never shied away from the difficult parts of history, nor from difficult methodology. His work on Roman Coins still sets the standard, and his management of epigraphical (inscriptions) evidence is excellent. I bring this up because it is important to understand that Crawford writes a style of history that tries to really assess the evidence for a period, this may make the work less palatable to non-academics as he focuses less on the personalities of the period (Caesar, Crassus, Pompey et al.) and more on the structural factors affecting the period and giving the reader access to some longer term themes of Roman History. Equally he does unbalance his history by only examining the fall of the republic, he allows an insight into earlier less well discussed periods.

The Fontana series made a real effort to create good entry points to the themes of ancient history rather than the narrative of Ancient History and Crawford makes good use of this premise.

Ideologically the book may be less comfortable to modern readers as Crawford does lean toward some Marxist ideas and Socialism in general. Though he does not try to let this influence the work too much, ultimately he does look at the system from a perspective of exploitation by a military elite against an agrarian proletariat, equally and appropriately he is keen to remove the veneer of respectability that has been attached to the likes of Caesar, Pompey, Crassus etc, by viewing them as Warlords with selfish motivations whose actions hurt their fellow citizens. Ultimately there is not too much wrong with trying to make historians aware that history of elites should not ignore the plight of ancient history's silent majority. Equally academics must be prepared to accept ideological stances other than their own if they are to develop their own ideas.

This work is a great introduction to the themes of Roman Republican history, though a reader may also wish to support it with works that provide a more narrative history of the period.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2010 7:56 PM BST

Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom
Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom
by Tom Holland
Edition: Hardcover

41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Original Millenium Bug?, 26 Sept. 2008
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Tom Holland does history and historians a great service. He brings areas of history such as the ancient world or the middle ages that have been increasingly the preserve of academics back to the general populace. He does this with wit, clever anecdote, narrative history and the confidence to nmatch his history with the trends in academia.

Millenium in this respect is a triumph of writing. First he succeeds in providing a highly cohesive narrative for a landscape that was divided amongst so many kingdoms and cultures, this is a victory in itself. secondly he ensures that his narrative is not the dull constitutional histories of the past that are a collection of dates but instead tries to really understand the motivations of the history.

Significantly he addresses the importance of religion and especially the Christian pre-occupation with the second coming. In an age that increasingly doesn't understand faith or wishes to downplay it's involvement in history, Holland masterfully draws in a clear and fair image of religion in keeping with current trends in middle ages history. He is very good at discuss the abbey at Cluny and using the abbey to draw a detailed image of the periods religious landscape. Skillfully he also looks at Muslim and Jewish attitudes and beliefs in the period and amazingly manages to fit into his narrative some well thought insights into the intellectual relationships between these faiths. It is often the downfall of historians of this period to take too Christian a view of events, but Holland succeeds in rising above this, it is to say the least refreshing.

The quality of his language and the structure of the book are also expertly compiled and depsite the need to travel both backwards and forwards in time to describe a kingdom or development, Hollands literary ability shines through.

I have only given the book 4 stars and need to explain why. In part Holland's great success in creating a unified history by focusing on Millenial angst also hinders the development of the work. First he never really addresses the extent to which we see AD 1000 as the millenium rather than the people of the middle ages who were less certain of dates and also using a plethora of religious dates to formulate an idea of the millenium (i.e. Christ's birth, crucifixtion, the birth of Mohammed etc), and that there were other reasons for the development of the period. He is disappointly uncritical of his entry point into the period, the millenium which feels like an opportunity wasted.

All in all a terrific work for a difficult period, Holland has made an accesible, intense and engrossing piece of history.

Megaman Zero Official Complete Works
Megaman Zero Official Complete Works
by Capcom
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Udon deliver the goods again!!!, 14 Sept. 2008
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You can say what you like about Udon Entertainment and their inability to release anything on time, but such sins are usually forgotten when you finally get the end result in your hands. What you'll probably do is turn around and say that you can't rush genius.

What Udon do really well is artwork and what they do even better is video game artwork. Since partnering Capcom with the Street Fighter series, they have gone on to look at other games such as Dark Stalkers and Exalted. Megaman Zero is the latest art book they have released, and it not only does it adhere to their high standards it represents a great art book.

First up it, it is crammed full of great art work covering both major and minor characters and all their costume designs. Secondly they show you how they designed various features on the characters. However the real triumph is that they let the book also tell the games story, providing plot synopsis and full character introductions. This was perhaps missing from their "art of capcom", and hopefully shows that will continue to raise the bar in terms of standards for future art books (the Dark Stalkers Graphic File and Street Fighter Tribute). To round it off, the book has great cover, with a special foil cover, which finishes the book fantastically.

What I would say, is, even if you were not a die-hard fan of mega man, this book is still worth getting, the art work is immense.

Vexille - Steelbook Special Edition [DVD]
Vexille - Steelbook Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fumihiko Sori

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious yet so disappointing!!!, 14 Sept. 2008
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For most anime fans an equation involving; the creators of appleseed, groundbreaking CGI animation and a promise of a tense modern geo-politcal masterpiece would usually mean that another titan had enetered the anime arena. It would join the ranks of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. The tragedy is that Vexille won't ever reach such levels of high appreciation.

I won't talk about the plot, as if you are planning on watching this I don't want to spoil it. However what I will say is that the plot is too big for the film, it is really the plot of a series like Gasaraki rather than for a one off film. I'd also say that the characters are not as likeable as their Appleseed companions; in Appleseed the heroes are rebellious free spirits in a utopia that needs their protection. In Vexille the characters are too straight laced is a dystopian tale.

On the positive the animation is sumptuous, the quality of animation is a progression for anime, it matches and betters the quality of animation seen in the likes of the two new appleseed films, and almost pretend in places to be the cartoon-photo technique seen in "A Scanner Darkly". It's not, but you half think it is. However having given you such a visual treat to watch they then refuse to dub the film. The film is in Japanese and is with English subtitles, in itself this would not be a massive problem - many anime fans will watch DVDs in subtitles, however it is still nice to have a choice and secondly a film that relies on it's visual impact really should allow you to concentrate on the imagery not the subtitles.

The much vaunted sound track is also under used, which is a shame, one would have expected better from the makers of appleseed, who were able to blend in contemporary music into the new Appleseed and Appleseed Ex Machina.

All in all the DVD is a crying shame, perhaps overhyped, it delivers stunning visuals at the cost of plot and feel. From the perspective of owning the DVD, a second disc of features hardly compensates for a lack of English dubbing!

X-Men  - Season One Part Two (Marvel Originals Series - 90s) [DVD] [1992]
X-Men - Season One Part Two (Marvel Originals Series - 90s) [DVD] [1992]
Dvd ~ Larry Houston
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.26

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally the best comic cartoon has been released!!!, 25 Aug. 2008
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The X-Men cartoons from 1992 revived the fortunes of decent cartoons, following the rampant 80s and Thundercats, He-Man, Transformers, G. I. Joe and even Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, it looked like the 90s would be a bleak decade for cartoons. Luckily Marvel pulled out all the stops and released the X-men.

The series worked on so many levels, first it used story lines from the comics and had several muli-part stories as well as longer term story arcs, including the Sentinels, the Phoenix Saga, the Age of Apocalypse, and the Legacy Virus. Secondly it made an effort to include so many characters from the comics, from originals like Beast, Iceman, Cyclops and Jean Gray to more recent additions like Gambit. It was a shame that Psylocke didn't make the series though. Having included all these characters, they then made sure the characters interacted in a really interesting way - they didn't all get a long - which was a novelty, Cyclops and Wolverines rivalry, the love interest between Gambit and Rogue, added to this were the characters own growing back story especially Wolverines.

The series delivered excellent visuals and good fight scenes and set the foundation for a decade of Marvel Comic crossovers. The animation still holds up even after 16 years of animating revolution.

All I can say is sit back and enjoy this slice of nostalgia.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2008 3:02 AM BST

I, Caesar - The Collection [1997] [DVD]
I, Caesar - The Collection [1997] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Caesar I
Price: £19.99

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and detailed examination of the Roman Emperors, 10 Aug. 2008
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Phil Grabsky is a masterful documentary maker, his talent in particular is for examintaion of individuals and leading men as seen in his other great series - the great commanders. Grabsky seeks to discuss Roman history by looking at the lives of six Romans - Julius Caesar and then Augustus, Nero, Hadrian, Constantine and Justinian.

The idea is that each one perhaps offers a different insight into the Empire, Caesar who laid the foundations for Augustus to become the first emperor, Augustus who's political ability and vision underpinned the shape of the empire for most of its existence, Nero as an example of a despot and the downside of the system, Hadrian provides insight into the scale of the Empire and the role of the emperor as a builder and controlling the destiny of the Empire, Constantine provides insight into the rebirth of the Empire and the increasing Christian influence on the Empire, whilst Justinian has been dubbed "the Last Caesar" for his efforts to reconquer the Western Empire.

The series thus works on an episode basis by discussing an individual leader and also on an overall scale by using the different facets of each to create an overall impression of the Roman Empire. Perhaps the only disappointment of this series is that it is only 6 episodes long, and the result is that the discussion is focused on the early empire, covering the first two centuries of the empire and then starting again from over 100 years later. It would have been nice to have looked at a Severan Emperor or even Marcus Aurelius, whilst Diocletian, Constantine's predecessor would have been worth a discussion not least as the only Emperor to ever retire.

That said this is an excellent series which observes high standards and provides a well structured insight into the Roman Empire, making it an essential for any documentary collection.

Two And A Half Men - Season 4 [DVD] [2008]
Two And A Half Men - Season 4 [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Conchata Ferrell
Offered by Assai-uk
Price: £9.65

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A series too far?? probably not, 10 Aug. 2008
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Ever since its start I have been a long term fan of Two and a Half Men, the series covered so much new ground in family sitcoms and has always handled the dysfunctional family situation well and humourously. By the series the balance is about right between the characters and the comedy is well balanced with some poigniant moments - I don't want to spoil the story by mentioning them now!

One thing the story addresses this time is how Charlie is attracting all these ladies and the struggle he has in keeping up with his lifestyle, with a few stories revolving around Charlie's tiredness and refusal to accept his ageing. Intially it is a little depressing as we have got to used to Charlie's ability to win through, but it is well handled. Alan gets a few less cringeworthy performances than in Season three and is instead used to foil Charlie's behaviour where perhaps his comedic effect is best felt.

From a DVD point of view season four takes much better care of you as a watcher - where as last season only offered a "gag reel" - which was a poor return on our wait for its release, season four has a scene by scene access system, two behind the scenes features, a gag reel and a selection of deleted scenes, making the DVD a complete package.

Full Metal Panic - Complete Collection [DVD]
Full Metal Panic - Complete Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Full Metal Panic

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 7 Aug. 2008
As long time fan of mecha based anime, I was hugely impressed by this series. First up is the story line, a clever mix of long term story arcs as well as good one off episodes, the mix in these is well developed using both humour as well as some fairly intense moments. A particular highlight is the three part story "when the wind blows", it acheives an emotional depth and intensity that many anime wish it had. It would be fair to say that the series acheived the comedic heights of Nadesico (the series not the film) with the fight scenes rivalling the likes of Gasaraki or Gundam.

This leads on to the characters themselves - one merit of this series is the way it exposes the whole child warrior character inherent to mecha anime. Whilst in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji couldn't cope with his role and internalised his problems, Full Metal Panic does the opposite the main protagonist Sousuke has to engage with real life despite his soldier instincts - in a way he is almost what you imagine Heero from Gundam wing would have really been like at school. The humour is well handled and it's mundane everyday environment serves as a good foil to the more open and spectacular combat scenes.

Importantly for an anime the artwork is excellent and is at the height of traditional mecha design, the fights are well coreographed and the characters all well drawn. The music isn't the best you'll ever hear - but then again you're not really watching it for that!!!

If you are looking for a good series to watch, then I really recommend this one especially if you have previously liked Gundam Wing, Nadesico, Eva, Robotech.

G.I. Joe - Special Missions Volume 1: Special Missions v. 1 (G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero!)
G.I. Joe - Special Missions Volume 1: Special Missions v. 1 (G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero!)
by B. Clay Moore
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value side show - Go Joe!!!!!, 7 Aug. 2008
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The special missions graphic novel collects a series of one off G. I. Joe stories. What makes it different is the idea behind the series. This is essentially a "what happens if the regular G. I. Joe team aren't there?" pattern, the premise is that there are reserve teams of operatives who get assembled at the last minute and have to deal with random threats.

The pleasure in this volume comes from getting a chance to see some fringe characters who otherwise wouldn't get the comic space, old favourites like Beachhead and Jynx get chances to take lead roles in their own stories. The art work is excellent and because the stories are detached from the main G. I. Joe storylines they can be quite effective and suprising.

However in spite of this it has to be seen that the appeal comes from it being different from regular G. I. Joe stories, so see it as light relief rather than an alternative, I think one volume on this idea is probably enough, the story arcs are short so no real depth develops and a lot of the stories use the gimic of having a team assembled with personality clashes or not being right for that mission, sometimes making comedy the priority over story development.

That said it is a great volume and the artwork is worth it alone!!!

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