Anime box-sets for 2010: Part Fourteen

D Gray Man: The Complete Collection

D Gray Man
Label:
Manga Entertainment
Certificate:
15
Format:
DVD
Discs:
8. (51 episodes)
Running time:
1300 mins approx
Subtitles:
English
Video:
16.9 anamorphic
Sound:
English 5.1, Japanese 2.0
Release date:
6th December 2010
RRP:
£59.99 - Amazon - Play - Manga

Brief synopsis:

In ancient times there existed a mythical object known as “innocence”, a rare and powerful substance that could be used to fashion tools and weapons that would vanquish evil and obliterate demons. It is believed that during the time of the Great Flood, this Innocence was split into 109 parts and swept away to the four corners of the globe. In the late 19th century, two separate powers search to unite the scattered innocence. One, an ancient being know as the Millennium Earl wants the Innocence in order to cleanse to world of all humanity while the other, a shadowy and secretive organisation known only as The Black Order, search for the Innocence in order to thwart the Earl’s plans.

The Black Order entrust the duty of retrieving this Innocence to their teams of Exorcists, all highly trained in cornering the activities of the Millennium Earl’s hordes of demonic servants. One such Exorcist, Allen Walker, has a fragment of Innocence embedded within his disfigured left arm that he can transform into a powerful anti-demon weapon of devastating potential as well as a cursed left eye, a permanent reminder of his own tragic past, which allows him to hunt out with a single glance any demon that may be hiding behind a disguise as a normal human. Along with his fellow Exorcists, many of who also wield Innocence powered supernatural abilities, Allen must locate and retrieve any remaining Innocence before the Earl beats them to it no matter the cost.

Comments:

Collecting a 4 previous D-Gray Man releases into one 8 disc box set, this collection covers all 51 episodes of D Gray Man’s first and second seasons.

Adapted from a long running manga of the same name, D-Gray Man is a Gothic horror set in the late 19th century. This show brings to mind several other offers of recent years such as Full Metal Alchemist and Soul Eater – to both of which it shares a striking number of similarities –as well as shades of Bleach and even at times the likes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

While it’s never going to win a “scariest anime ever!” awards, it’s certainly never going to get itself a showing on mainstream UK TV as it spends a lot of it’s time treading “darkly morbid” territory and can at times be quite depressing. Many of the episodes have to deal with grieving family members who’ve made a deal with the Earl to drag the souls of their recently dearly departed back from the afterlife and into the living world. What they don’t realised is that they’ve unwittingly cursed their loved ones to an eternity of mindless slavery as part of the Earl’s un-dead army. Neither do they know that the first order that the Earl will be giving his shiny new puppet is to not only kill the person that brought them back but also to clothe themselves with their victim’s skin so they might blend into society and hide away from the Black Order.

Story wise, there s a number of short stand alone arcs that show Allan and his companions out on missions wiping out the aforementioned reanimated loved ones that can be quite interesting - though often repetitive – but when this show decides to head into silly territory, which is pretty much whenever the Exorcists get back to home base, then it goes really silly, really quickly. There’s also a number of tales that have somewhat of a weird twist to them to throw the audience off track, which is something this show does well. One being about a beautiful young girl being kidnapped by a hideous monster and requiring rescuing; the twist being that he’s not a hideous monster and that she neither wants nor needs rescuing... actually, that happens a few times. Another being about a beautiful woman being kidnapped by a vicious vampire with the twist being he’s neither a vampire nor the one the Exorcists should be hunting. OK, so some of these stories can get a bit predictable after a while but it doesn’t stop them being entertaining.

The anime ran for two years in Japan and totalled 103 episodes (though this collection only covers the first 51 of those) and you don’t get that far without being entertaining. And entertaining it certainly is even if you can’t help but get the feeling that you’ve seen much of it somewhere else before.

Extras:

Textless opening and closing title sequences; Audio commentaries.

D Gray Man: The Complete Collection is available now from most high street and online retailers.

Fate Stay / Night Complete Collection

Fate Stay
Label:
MVM
Certificate:
15
Format:
DVD
Discs:
6. (24 episodes)
Running time:
575 mins approx
Subtitles:
English
Video:
16.9 anamorphic
Sound:
English 2.0, Japanese 2.0
Release date:
6th December 2010
RRP:
£39.99 - Amazon - Play - MVM

Brief synopsis:

Ten years have passed since the last great Grail War, a battle waged in secret between seven powerful mages and their magically summoned servants, these being physical embodiment of some of the greatest warriors the world has ever known. Ten years since the last Grail War ended in disaster and destroyed much of Fuyuki City leaving young Shirō Emiya orphaned and close to death. Now. a decade later the Grail War begins anew a teenage Shirō finds himself thrust onto the front lines when he accidentally becomes master to the most sought after servant of all, Saber, who swears to protect him with every fibre of her being
After making a temporary and somewhat uneasy alliance with another master, Rin Tōsaka, and her servant, Archer, Shirō must learn pretty quickly that it’s one thing to espouse lofty ideals like truth and justice but quite another to uphold them when there’s powerful, cunning and often underhanded enemies gunning for your life. Taking his place as a player in the newest Grail War, where the lines between friend and foe can blur almost constantly, he may now be the only one who can stop Fuyuki City from being engulfed in a carnival of destruction and save it from being decimated for a second time.

Comments:

Based on a visual novel (a Japanese computer game with a very linear plot) by the same name, Fate Stay/Night brings a number of historical and mythological figures into the modern age and pits them against each other in a holy war to obtain the greatest prize of all - one which can grant any wish - the one and only Holy Grail. Part of the plot is that each of the warriors summoned through time as noble spirits have their true identities concealed so as not to reveal their weakness to the opposing forces and instead fill out various class roles that will be familiar to any RPG players such as Assassin, Caster, Rider and so on. Some are easy for the audience to figure out such as Berserker or Lancer but others such as Saber and Archer will keep you guessing for quite a while. The clues as to their true identities are all there scattered though the series but are incredibly easy to miss and there’s been more than a few liberties taken with popular mythology.
Our hero Shirō starts out as a idealistic teenager with very little in the way of magical ability who’s accidentally trust into the Grail War armed with nothing but his belief in truth and justice. Generally wherever a character harps on about truth, justice and the American way etc in this kind of series you just know that they’re gunna get taught some harsh realities pretty soon. Plus it’s usually a lesson learnt at the receiving end of something sharp and pointy and in that this show is no exception.

Animated by production company Studio DEEN, Fate Stay/Night was produced with an eye to good quality animation throughout. The original Japanese language track is also of very high quality with many of the high profile voice actors from the original video game returning to voice their characters once more. The English language dub however, was crap. It started crap, got a little less crap in the middle and then went rapidly back downhill into crapsville towards the end. I did keep going back to give it another chance but I kept fleeing in terror time and again to the safety of the original Japanese version. The worst offender had to be Gilgamesh – ancient King of Kings, demigod and all-round Mesopotamian hero - who comes off in the original as a powerful and arrogant, though slightly creepy, enemy to be feared for damn good reason while in the dub he sounds more like a full-of-himself surfer dude that could do with a good slap.

Extras:

There’s the ever present text-less opening and closing animation, “Rider's Diary”, a live action opening theme music video, promo video / TV commercials and two character music videos.

Fate Stay / Night Complete Collection is available now from most high street and online retailers. Previous SFL reviews for this series can be found here.

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