Review: Vampire Knight Vol. 1 Manga

Vampire Knight Vol. 1 supplied by Otaku Fuel

vampire-knight-1

Vampire Knight as a manga has been around for a little while now but like all good manga doesn’t reach peak popularity until a few years into its cycle, where it is now enjoying the success it has deservedly earned. It has also been made into an anime, but that is a different review for a different time 🙂 But first a brief background into the Vampire Knight mythology for those of you still needing to get into this great title from series creator, Matsuri Hino.

Kiriyu Zero and Yuki Cross are the two night time guardians at the prestigious Cross Academy boarding school, guardians that protect the day time students from the massive secret that the academy holds, the night time students are actually vampires. Vampires that are kept in line by an ages old vampire called Kaname Kuran who has his fair share of secrets. Yuki’s earliest memory is being attacked by a vampire in the snow when she was five years old and being rescued by Kaname Kuran. Kiriyu himself also comes with heavy baggage due to his family having been wiped out by a vampire leaving him as the sole surviving member and with a hatred of all vampires but Zero harbours a secret that may prove to be his undoing, one that will no doubt unravel as the storyline progresses.

The chapters in the manga are broken up into “nights” which is where the events take place all amongst the backdrop of teenage angst and the usual dramas that face any student in school with friendships, school life and relationships all being tested especially the love triangle that involves Yuki, Zero and Kaname. The first couple of chapters gradually break the reader into the different characters, both human and vampire as we see what the daily life is like for the Day class at the academy and as the guardians come into play in the evening which is when the night class takes over for their studies.

During patrol at night, Yuki catches two female day students taking pictures of the night class, injuring themselves in the process which draws the attention of Hanabusa Aido and Akatsuki Kain, two night class vampires. No spoilers here so you’ll just have to read the manga to find out what happens! Zero’s secret is also revealed in this first volume as more is revealed about his shady past.

This first volume is filled with much tension and drama but is beautifully drawn with great panel work and an even tighter script, there is much detail in most pages and there is great bonus artwork in the inner sleeves of the book. I am thoroughly enjoyed reading this first instalment and found the characters have been fleshed out particularly well and you find that you’ll be developing favourites early on in the piece. This is a great manga and you could do far worse than this, really recommend this title for anyone into vampires, Japanese school life or just great story telling in general.

Review: AKB48: Kamikyokutachi

AKB48 Kamikyokutachi cd supplied by Otaku Fuel

akb48

In Japan there is J-pop and then there is J-pop! And one of the biggest groups to exist in Japan is AKB48. This is a girl group made up of 48, yes, 48 members in three teams, Team A, K and B. They have a great presence in Akihabara in the Don Quixote building in downtown Chuo Dori where they do regular concerts and signings. Formed in 2005 by super producer, Yasushi Akimoto and releasing their first single in 2006, AKB48 have steadily and consistently been building their fanbase around the world by the thousands as well as currently holding the world record for most members in one group! They have already released over 10 albums ranging from studio to stage albums with each one selling extremely well and charting with great success on the Japanese Oricon music charts.

One of these albums is Kamikyokutachi, which translates loosely as Goddess Tracks, is a compilation of their greatest hits previously released on other albums as well as two previously unreleased singles. There are some absolute corkers in here with tunes that will have you tapping your foot and nodding your head to the beat. Now keep in mind that J-pop, just like anime, isn’t for everyone but if you’re a J-pop Otaku, then you simply must have some AKB48 in your collection and this cd is a great place to start.

AKB48From my personal collection, Harajuku March 2010

Dripping in sugary sweetness, the high pitched voices are immediately infectious and catchy and will make anyone an instant fan eager to keep track after track coming. I dare anyone to skip past any of the tracks on this album as they are all massive chart toppers in their own right. Particularly worth mentioning are “River”, “Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara”, “Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!”, “10nen Zakura” and Iiwake Maybe. But to be completely honest, on my very first listen through, I didn’t feel the need to skip any tracks and loved them all but I do like my J-pop very sweet and not so mature. I’ve included a You Tube clip of “River” just below just to give you an idea of what to expect. This cd, as most Japanese releases, also comes with a DVD disc which has three of their songs performed in a studio with multiple camera angles on offer which offers more than one viewing just to make sure you can appreciate all of their dance steps.This album also went to the top of the Oricon charts so you’re in great company by buying this and adding it to your music library.

Will AKB48 be for everyone? Maybe not but give the clip below a go and if you like it, maybe give their You Tube channel a look so you know what to expect and then when you’re ready head straight to Otaku Fuel and snap up this slice of J-pop goodness that will remind you why one of the things that Japan is known for, is their quirky and infectious anime sounding tunes.

Review: Appleseed Movie DVD (2004)

Appleseed Movie DVD supplied by Otaku Fuel

Shirow Masamune is a name that reverberates around the Otaku world. He singlehandedly kept the industry alive with a cult classic in the form of Ghost In the Shell. This was followed closely by another classic, Appleseed which was faithfully brought to the anime world by director, Shinji Aramaki. Appleseed was a huge smash in 2004 and even more so when it was released onto home DVD which brings me to this review. Just a brief background about the story first in case you haven’t had a chance to experience it yet.

Deunan Knute is a feisty and highly trained operative who fought in the last Global War and is one of the last human survivors who is teamed up with a technologically advanced cyborg called Briareos as part of the ESWAT organisation. The Appleseed of the title refers to highly sensitive and critical information Deunan must track down and recover before the new world, Olympus, is destroyed. The movie used a new technique instead of traditional cel animation. It combined animation, CGI and motion captured actors to bring incredible movement and a sense of realism to the characters as never seen before in an anime. This really has to be seen to be believed as the fluidity conveyed on the screen is really beautiful and a sight to behold. The transfer to DVD is absolutely faultless and is breathtaking to watch no matter how many times you may have watched it before.

The DVD itself is a two disc presentation with the first disc being the movie with your choice of English or Japanese dub, a commentary track from the director (amazing), soundtrack chapters, Appleseed trailers and the now obligatory trailers promoting other releases. The second disc is where more magic comes alive as it’s jam packed with special features ranging from a special called, “Birth of 3D Live Anime”, which is the making of Appleseed which is a must view, an archive of extensive design galleries, a music video from the Boom Boom Satellites, a commercial for the Appleseed soundtrack (which is another review), characters and mecha image gallery, staff profiles and profiles of the Appleseed characters and mecha info. All in all, a sublime collection of anime goodness worth viewing more than once and compliments the movie and overall presentation beautifully. And of course everything is presented in an impressive 16:9 ratio preserving the original format of the movie.

I think it’s obvious that I’m a fan and it may be a biased review but this is one title that if you don’t own, you must own or at the very least have watched it in Japanese with English subtitles as a true Otaku. This is a title that stands head and shoulders above all else along with some other gems that have deservedly earnt a place in your collection. I can’t praise Appleseed enough, amazing story told at a cracking pace, amazing technology utilised, great soundtrack and characters in a race against time that you will love all bundled in a double disc Special Edition which will look great in any collection.

Enough said, buy this now, it’s that simple 🙂

Review: Bleach Ichigo Kurosaki Hollow T-Shirt

Bleach Ichigo Kurosaki Hollow T-Shirt supplied by Otaku Fuel

Any otaku worth their salt will have watched, read or at the very least heard about Tite Kubo’s runaway success that is Bleach. Filled with rich characters, engrossing storylines, tight action sequences and exciting and evolving villains, this is one title that has amassed a huge following right around the world. So what better way to declare your love for these characters than with your very own Ichigo Kurosaki t-shirt complete with hollow transformation face mask. T-Shirts are probably one of the easiest ways to show the world your favourite animes or mangas!

ichigo-hollow-t

I’ll start with the t-shirt itself which is made from a medium density cotton material meaning it’s just right for warm weather without having the flimsy look and and feel that some cheaper brands tend to do these days to just preserve cost.Non fading colour even after repeated washings by machine, this is one T that will stand the test of time. The actual graphic design is very impressive with a lot of detail going on on Ichigo’s face with particular mention to the eyes, the kanji in the background and the mask itself as it appears to be shattering from his face. Great vibrant colours also make the image really stand out from the crowd. There’s also a nice Bleach logo at the base of the kanji with clear and legible lettering which is easy to read unlike some other brands where the writing in the logo can sometimes bleed into the material itself resulting in a blurry and hard to make out logo. Happy to report, that isn’t the case here.

Finally the quality and durability of the graphic itself is right up there with the previous mention of the t-shirt material. Long lasting and non fading colours chosen for the graphic that have so far stood the test of time on my exact same t-shirt. You could do a far worse than this T which I give full marks for the material, the graphic design and the quality of the cotton. Top marks here, add this one to your shopping list next time you’re around Otaku Fuel 🙂

Review: Death Note 1 Live Action Movie

Death Note live action movie supplied by Otaku Fuel.

One of the most popular animes to come out of Japan, Death Note, has been immortalised in two live action movies. The first movie simply called Death Note was a box office smash knocking The Da Vinci Code off the top spot in the Japanese theatres. This review will look at the DVD itself and the production value behind it. But first, for the uninitiated, a brief background into the Death Note story. It revolved around an A grade student called Light Yagami who is bored academically as he feels there are no more challenges to really test him. This all changes the day he finds a Death Note belonging to a death god or shinigami called Ryuk who also happens to bored with life in the shinigami realm. The Death Note has the power to kill anyone by writing their name in the book while picturing that person’s face. Light decides he can change the world by eliminating the criminals with Ryuk as his mentor and guide. Top detective, L, decides to take on the challenge of bringing the unknown killer to justice thus beginning a cat and mouse game between the two brilliant minds of Light and L.

death-note-movie-posterDeath Note movie poster

 

The movie has been handled with precision directing under the instruction of Shūsuke Kaneko who directed both Death Note movies. Anyone familiar with the anime or manga will love the way this well loved favourite has been handled as the film moves along at a cracking pace never letting the viewer out of its grasp. Visually the movie is beautiful to look at as the stylised feel of the anime has been transferred to the screen in an accurate and sublime manner that can be so rare of anime to live action transfers. The actors portraying L and Light have been extremely well cast and play a thrilling game of good versus evil that makes viewing this movie an absolute must.

Moving onto the extras, there’s a couple of humourous clips where the two main leads gave press interviews and they were playing it up for the cameras by talking over each other and getting in the way of each other as they were answering their questions, funny stuff. Production diaries, a clip of a special viewing in Japan, meeting the audience in Japan and a picture gallery round off the movie related extras. There’s the usual assortment of trailers and tv spots that are worth watching and of course there’s always the random selection of other anime’s that Viz Media are plugging. All in all, still worth watching and checking out when you’re done with the movie.

ryuk-lightRyuk, the shinigami and Light Yagami

Two thumbs up for this movie and a must view for any anime fan wanting to extend their Death Note experience, highly recommended and a must buy.