Anime Briefs image.DragonBall Z: Broly Second Coming

FUNimation / USD$24.98
Rating: 1.5/5

Another DragonBall Z movie is out, and they are showing some signs of being past their prime. In Broly Second Coming, you have the focus on Goten, Trunks and Vidal as they are searching for the DragonBalls, so that each can make their own wish. I guess you can say that the part where the story actually gets going is when Gotenís obnoxious crying wakes up Broly, whose capsule was sealed under ice from his last battle with the Z fighters.

As far as DragonBall Z movies go, this one will end up near the bottom of the pile. You have a weak story, with a focus on annoying characters that rely on crud humor. Even for a DragonBall Z movie, Broly Second Coming had its problems. The most glairing being that Broly, who nearly killed Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, Goku, Gohan, and future Trunks in the last movie, had some problems with Goten and Trunks. Now Iím not expecting great continuity in a DragonBall Z movie, but at least do a better job than that. The topper of this movie has to be the fact that the fighting was just plain bad, and fighting is the backbone of any DragonBall Z movie. Goku and Krillin make one short appearance, with Vegeta and Piccolo nowhere to be seen. Lastly, the ending is abrupt and weak.

A release with below average animation, Broly Second Coming has really only one nice point, which is the hard metal soundtrack that compliments the DragonBall Z movies perfectly. Even DragonBall Z fans should consider staying away from this one. --JL

Anime Briefs image.Hoop Days Vol. 1

Bandai / USD$29.98
Rating: 2.5/5

I'm not too familiar with sports anime; in fact, I'm a complete rookie (clever pun, eh?) to the genre. I've always thought of it as the pinnacle of unparalleled cheesiness, which can possibly be attributed to its apparent lack of any commercial success in the U.S. However, companies like Bandai keep pushing sports anime onto the seemingly unwanting American public.

This is where Hoop Days comes in. Initially, the story is about Aikawa, a high school student who has just transferred to a new high school from one in which basketball is taken extremely seriously. At his new school, Mizuho, the basketball program is extremely lacking for men, and he makes it his mission to make it into a great team. While watching, one cannot help but notice how cheesy this show really is. I guess it can only be expected of a basketball anime. This show actually benefits from its American name, as the original "Dear Boys" would have made the homoeroticism even more blatant. However, the show is for the most part at least fairly entertaining, if not a bit unintentionally comical.

Hoop Days also has one of the most bizarre theme songs that I have ever seen in anime, a hip hop tune called "Sound of Bounce." Need I say more? Production values are fine, with fairly smooth animation and decent character design. However, for non-sports anime fans, I truly cannot recommend this show. This volume also has a fairly decent episode count, making it a good value for sports fans. --CI

Anime Briefs image.Hourglass of Summer

Hirameki International Group Inc. / USD$29.99
Rating: 2.5/5

This is a bishoujo game that I picked up at the Sakura Con in Seattle this year. It was the first time that I heard of Anime Play, so I thought that I might give it a try. Anime Play is just what it sounds like: anime that you can play. It's almost no different than your usual PC game, only now you can play it on your TV as well.

In Hourglass of Summer, you play a high school student who experiences "day drop" -- when he accidentally travels back and forth into time. It is also by "day dropping" that he is able to change certain events in the "past," in order to change his fate, and to save his crush, Kaho Serizawa from dying in the "future."

What I like about the game/anime is that the animation is innocent and detailed. The copy that I bought also came with a colorful Special Art Book that was more like a leaflet. What I don't like about this production is that Hourglass of Summer is too much like an anime -- with very limited playability. Certain endings are simply too abrupt, and Kaho usually dies whatever you do. As well, the four other female characters who occasionally get mad at you for almost no apparent reason do not make the plot easier to understand.

The packaging is awesome, the price is very reasonable (after I bargained with the guy for ten minutes for a deal), and the character designs are quite good, but the fact that Kaho, as well as one of the four other girls, died on my first try totally put me off. In addition, I was unable to save the game, even though I followed the game instructions -- but if you are the type of person who enjoys looking at pretty girls and perseveres so that you may see that perfect ending in one sitting, Hourglass of Summer is perfect for you! --SH

Anime Briefs image.Samurai Champloo Vol. 4

Geneon / USD$29.98
Rating: 4.5/5

With this volume, we finally cross the halfway point of this fantastic series with more of the show's patented action sequences and hip-hop style. As we get deeper into the episodes, the stories also become much more complicated and more concerned with the characters' pasts, rather than their constant need for money. Although this element is still there, it takes a back seat in this volume.

This is especially apparent from the first two episodes, a two-part story involving Mugen and his past. Old love interests and little snippets of his past are revealed here, and the action sequences are heavy and bloody. In the second part of this sequence, the show takes a turn for the bizarre, with a weird poetry song and a montage of Mugen's mysterious near-encounters with death. It's pretty entertaining, but the music gets somewhat annoying after a while.

While all of this is good, the one thing that prevents me from giving this volume a perfect score is how lax the show seems to be on quality animation. It goes from awesome to terrible literally in seconds, and at times the character animations are almost laughable. The music maintains its greatness as usual, as does the great storyline and voice acting. Geneon never fails to impress me with the box art, which is beautifully stylish. Definitely recommended. --CI

Anime Briefs image.Wicked Lessons

Critical Mass / USD$24.55
Rating: 3/5

Ah... Another selection from the Vanilla Series library. In this hentai title, Noelle's parents are killed in an accident, so her older stepbrother, Shuichi (not the Shuichi from Gravitation by any means!) becomes her guardian. On the night of the funeral, Shuichi rapes Noelle in a pretty brutal move even for hentai. Apparently, Noelle always had a big brother complex, so it's not as bad as it seems.

Shuichi makes Noelle transfer over to Takamine College, where he is a professor. Once there, he uses Noelle to gain information and access to the other girls at the college, while he uses her... well, more in the traditional hentai way. In a touching scene, Shuichi defends Noelle against a group of sadistic triplets, only to thank her for setting up the situation for a foursome. In the last few minutes, it's revealed that all of this has been to get at Elena, the daughter of the college director, and to shame the director into returning the college back to its rightful owner -- Shuichi. Meanwhile, Noelle, in true tragic hentai fashion, commits suicide because she loves Shuichi and can't stand that he doesn't love her. Shuichi only realizes that he has more than brotherly feelings for Noelle when she has already made the big jump. The anime ends with Shuichi daydreaming about the future with Noelle while banging Elena.

Wicked Lessons is your usual Critical Mass release. The animation is average, the plot twisted, and the dub is par with actual porn dialogue. This hentai has a lot of bondage, incest, rape, and sadism, along with the whole focus on revenge, giving it an aggressive and angry tone. If you enjoy these elements in your erotica, then pick up this title. --JC

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