Sakura Wars: Return of the Spirit Warriors Review

It’s time for the next Sakura Wars OVA. This one introduces two new members to the group who show up pretty quietly in the second half. That’s a fun part of having a spinoff to a game where they are probably introduced midway. They’re gone one moment and here the next. They’re not bad, although naturally it feels like they have less character development than the others. This is a pretty follow-up OVA with a good array of stories. I would still give the first OVA the edge but it’s pretty close.

The 6 episodes have 5 stand alone stories and one two part adventure at the end. The main story holding them all together is that they are being presented via flashbacks from Ogami as he remembers his time with the Flower Division. It’s an unforgettable time for him and I suspect that he is slowly regretting his decision to leave them. It just won’t be the same at his next location but I’m sure he’ll make the most of it. It almost becomes meme worthy by the end as every step he takes triggers a new flashback to the point where you feel like he will never leave the house. There is just too much to remember at this point. So lets take a look at the 6 episodes.

The first episode is a good way to start things off. An assassin from Maria’s past has arrived in New York and he is determined to destroy her and the rest of the Flower Division. Maria goes off to confront him but her skills have been faltering a bit lately. Perhaps it is because she has started to come out of her shell and be more friendly with the other members. Sakura will have to convince Maria that this is actually a good thing as they team up against this guy. Can they defeat his giant mech? The episode had a lot of action and pretty high stakes. Sakura Wars as a franchise isn’t always about the big fight scenes and action segments but this one certainly went in that direction and I’d say that it worked out quite well. Maria’s a fun character and Sakura’s always got everyone’s back. They make for a very solid tag team.

Next up is the episode about introducing Reni. She seems to look up to Iris to an extent or at least appreciates how nice and innocent she is. As a result Reni lets Iris put the blame on her for the latest mishaps in the theater. When Iris runs off to pout, Reni goes after her to try and talk sense. It’s not so bad being a kid, at least that’s what Reni is trying to convince Iris of, but it’s been a tough sell. I’d say that this was the weakest episode. It wasn’t bad or anything but Iris was definitely acting like a kid here and just made things tougher on everyone. If she had been a little more reasonable then the episode would have been pretty short if anything.

After that we get a haunted opera. So Sumire and Kanna are co starring in an episode about a detective who is taking out a corrupt business lord. The play is going as normal except a lot of unfortunate accidents start happening on set. Supposedly it is the work of a ghost who is haunting the place. Sumire doesn’t buy into this but the rest of the group is nervous. Turns out something wrong is happening here and the ghost intends to murder them all. Can the Flower Division handle it? It’s always interesting when you’ve got a ghost running around because the main characters do have powers so you’d think they could wreck it right? Kanna does pretty well with blocking the attack so I think she was doing pretty well. Sumire wanted a peaceful resolution for once though so we don’t get to see the battle.

This was probably my favorite episode in the saga. It had a little action so that was good and I’m always up for a supernatural angle. The ghost could definitely put up a fight and even was able to fire off energy blasts which was pretty cool. The scene of Kanna being able to block one with her fist was also pretty noteworthy. That’s not something just anyone can do. The actress comes across as pretty spoiled throughout but I’m glad she had her happy ending. She was fortunate here since if the others knew that she tried to vaporize the friends they may not have been quite lenient.

Next up was an episode about a town getting harassed by a bunch of bullies who wanted the land. This one’s a little less notable but we got to see the heroes pretend to be costumed fighters so that was interesting. It also continues to show why Kohran is easily the worst member of the group with how reluctant she was to help. She had the costume so at that point it was her duty to help out as best she could. It’s definitely a pretty wholesome episode. Orihime helped to make it better than if Kohran had to hold the whole episode on her own.

Finally we get the two part episode where Sakura and Yoneda leave on some kind of journey. Word gets out to the team that Sakura is about to get married and they’re all sad about this as well as upset that she didn’t tell them. It’s all gossip and yet they believe that it’s probably true. After some sleuthing they find a letter that hints Sakura doesn’t want to go through with the marriage so they take the blimp to go and stop Sakura. Meanwhile Sakura’s intent on following the traditions and won’t take a man for herself. In the Shinguji family what happens is you take a man who then becomes one of their family and the next in line to be a demon slayer. As a result it seems like she would rather do this on their own. The family traditions seem to be pretty bad as always so hopefully they put a stop to this. It seems like there is no end to the demons anyway so they should all keep fighting as opposed to doing this. Well, Sakura may wish she had told the others ahead of time because they’re on the way!

This was a solid way to wrap things up since it is going for one of the more emotional beats in the series. There’s definitely a good amount of character development here and we get to see some more flashbacks of Sakura’s father which is always fun. A shame he couldn’t live through the battle but the guy was heavily outnumbered so he really did good when you think about it. Definitely a character you can look up to. Yoneda also spends most of the episodes drunk but at least in this one he tries to be responsible since Sakura asked him to be in the event in place of her father. The guy ends up drunk in the end though so I have to deduct some points. Sorry Yoneda but you just can’t stay serious long enough to be a likable character.

Right away you can also tell that the animation certainly got an upgrade here compared to the first OVA. The colors are very sleek and this looks way newer than the first one even though there technically wasn’t much of a gap between this one and the first so that’s impressive. I wouldn’t say that the soundtrack is particularly notable although the theme song is definitely pretty iconic at this point. The 6 episodes really breeze by as well. The pacing is on point and same for the overall writing. It’s why the 6 episodes are all pretty solid. The characters are interesting and so this is a title I would recommend to any viewer who likes a good story. It’s effectively a solid slice of life.

Sakura is a solid lead as she was last time. She’s definitely still the heart of the group and without her I don’t think they’d be the same. Aside from being the most powerful member, she’s also the sharpest and tends to know when something’s not going well like with how she helped out Maria. Meanwhile Maria is definitely a solid character as well. Even though her confidence was shaken early on she was able to bounce back from that and came in handy for the future fights. She may be getting more emotional than she used to be, but it’s nothing overdone or handled crazily.

Then we have Sumire who looked the best here. As always she can be pretty harsh with her criticism and doesn’t mince words. I think the reason it continues to work more and more in the execution is that the team is already one unit. So it’s not super personal when she’s taking shots at Sakura because they are friends. It’s more posturing than anything else to put Sakura on notice. Then there’s Iris but she is a bit weaker here than last time. She acts a bit more spoiled and otherwise doesn’t get much to do. In the first OVA I liked seeing her flaunt her abilities so confidently while she takes a bit of a backseat here.

Kohran is not very good as always. She continues to mess up all of her inventions which is sad since being a genius is her whole gimmick. If she’s not really able to make any great inventions anymore then what’s the point of her character? The original show played it straight but in the OVA adventures they act like she’s just not that bright. It’s pretty unfortunate and so she continues to spiral down the chains. Even making the microphone box was a pretty low moment for her since it’s not like the thing didn’t work, it was built to be a microphone and she just didn’t realize it. That’s pretty sad.

Meanwhile we’ve got the more battle tested Kanna who is a hype member as always. The scene of her punching away an energy blast was extremely impressive. You never really see a character doing much against the supernatural without their mechs but Kanna wasn’t worried. She comes across as the most reasonable member and the banter between her and Sumire is always a lot of fun. They’ve got a great dynamic there. From the two new characters Orihime is definitely the better of the two. I still maintain that she doesn’t add much to the story though. Effectively she is like a backup version of Sumire in that she believes in being very harsh on everyone. She’s also super rich so it really feels like they just grabbed the same character. It’s not really a bad thing per say but at the same time it means that her character doesn’t feel necessary. I’d have liked to have seen her and Sumire go at it a bit more, I think that would have been fun.

Reni may need some more time to really get going but she’s not off to a great start. We didn’t really need another kid type member of the group. She may try to always be very calm and collected, but we already have Maria for that who executes this a lot better. Finally we have Ogami who has certainly started to get very nostalgic in his old age. He’s a solid character as always even if his getting drunk is never a good look. The guy needs to learn how to block peer pressure and just do his own thing instead of drinking to make his boss feel good. Ogami certainly can’t handle his drinks. When he’s serious he’s a solid character though and means well. He helps to balance out the dynamic.

Overall, The Return of the Spirit Warriors is a pretty solid second OVA. It carries on the strengths of the first OVA and brings them along here. While the first one still takes a narrow win thanks in part to the fun of seeing the team get together initially, this one’s pretty close. I wouldn’t say it has any weaknesses or anything like that. The characters are still as solid as ever (Or in Kohran’s case as weak as ever) and it’s always fun to see them have adventures. I look forward to seeing how the next one stacks up.

Overall 7/10

Naruto: Sakura’s Story Review

It’s time to review the final Naruto novel that I’ve read so far. Sakura gets to be the main character of this adventure. While she is probably the weakest of the three personality wise, (The first two novels were led by Shikamaru and Kakashi) Sakura manages to have a pretty good novel. The villains are nothing to write home about, but they do their best to cause some destruction and mayhem. It’s a fun little story in the future of Konoha.

Sasuke is as distant as ever and Sakura has been having doubts about how their situation is going to work. It never made any sense from the get go and was squeezed into the lore for no reason anyway, but now Sakura is finally being forced to deal with all of this. It gets worse when Sasuke is framed for murdering a bunch of people and declaring war on Konoha once more. Sakura believes that there is no way that Sasuke could do this and Naruto doesn’t buy it either….but what if it is him? Sakura will be forced to slay him and that would definitely make her home situation very complicated.

Considering that Sasuke is being framed, nobody is taking it too seriously. Some villages are getting into a fuss as usual, but lets face it…what are they gonna do about it? If Sasuke truly is evil once again, he could destroy them all rather easily. By the end of the series, Naruto and Sasuke were light years ahead of everyone else. A confrontation involving one of them and anyone else would not even be close. There would be no fight, only a massacre. Luckily, the Sasuke impostor is not nearly as powerful as Sasuke. Sakura and Sai are able to handle the villains easily enough. It’s a good chance for Sai to save his rep considering that he didn’t look very good in the Shikamaru novel.

Kido is the main villain here and he’s mainly able to be a threat because he has his own 9 Tails Cloak. It’s mostly fake as he got it through DNA and a lot of science speak, but it does give him a very real power boost. It’s enough to almost put him on Sakura’s level, but she’s gone through a lot of training of her own and is ableto handle him. It’s a fun climax and it is always good to have an actual fight to finish things off. The first two novels had some issues with this. It’s why I’d like to see a Sasuke or Naruto novel at some point with more aliens like Kaguya which could make for epic fight scenes.

Aside from Sai, who did most of the heavy lifting here, the other supporting characters didn’t help much. Tsunade was just around to make Sakura more insecure and gave out bad advice. Ino mostly just fueled the romance angle and Kakashi didn’t really do anything. All he could do was talk a good game from his throne. The other villages spent their time panicking so in the end, it was really up to Sakura. They say that times of peace can make a place a little sloppy, that may be happening to the village. All these small villains are popping up now. They’re no threat in a face to face fight, but from the shadows they can be tricky.

These novels are fairly short and easy to read. You can easily finish in a day as you just cruise through the chapters. That’s a good sign that the novel is good since you’d otherwise be forcing yourself to get through it. The writing may not be great at times, but that could also just be because the characters are a little annoying. If the book has a weakness, it’s that you can’t really get attached to any of the characters. Sakura is too distracted by Sasuke the whole time and Tsunade really does her best to put Sakura on the wrong track. Kido’s as generic as they come, but there’s only so much you can do in just one novel. That’s why you should take that into account as you read through the book.

Overall, Sakura’s Story is a good way to wrap up the Naruto novels for now. It had more action than the Shikamaru adventure and less comic relief than the Kakashi story. It’s a better all around book and we’re getting closer to the action that I want to see from the Naruto series. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve finished the manga. It expands the universe and allows you to see the characters again. Any chance to revisit an old universe is usually a good one to utilize. The characters also look less shady and semi evil here than they did in the Shikamaru novel, where they decided to do things right under the Hokage’s nose. That’s not the best way to operate a village since you need to have trust in order to succeed. Things were done more by the book here, which was definitely an improvement. Nobody would try sneaking past Sasuke if he had been Hokage…I’m just saying…

Overall 7/10

Boruto: Naruto the Movie Review

Naruto has had many films over the years. They’ve typically ranged from good to great. Through the years, Naruto’s only had one film that I could almost call bad (Road to Ninja) although it’s had a few that were only decent. (The first film) Naruto The Last rose to 1st place on my Naruto list, mainly due to the intense action scenes that were present. Naruto was completely out of character and the romance was iffy, but barring that…it was nearly a perfect film. Well, Boruto eliminates the romance aspect and focuses on the action so that helped it to even surpass The Last. The theater crowd was also a lot larger for this open and everyone was more hyped. Even I had to put my Pokemon Shuffle game down as the lights dimmed as I didn’t want to miss what was about to happen!

The film starts out with a bang as Sasuke faces off against Kinshiki. It was very impressive visually as Sasuke finally learned how to use his electricity to the point where he could move with it as light speeds. Kinshiki was able to keep up with Sasuke though and even outspeed him, which shows how dangerous this villain is. The film then cuts away to the main plot..boooooooo, but it was an epic way to start the movie. I’m a firm supporter of the belief that all films should start off with a bang. Look at Yugioh Bonds Beyond Time, it starts off with Jaden fighting against Paradox on top of a building during a pseudo apocalypse. It doesn’t get much more epic than that. The film was just starting, but I was already entertaining the notion that this film could be the best Naruto title yet.

We then see Boruto, who’s upset at his current situation. His father is always busy addressing the nation and performing his Hokage duties. Naruto even skips out on his daughter’s birthday. Boruto has enough of this and decides that he doesn’t want to be Hokage. His teammates, Sarada and Mitsuki, are not too thrilled because Boruto also decides not to enter the Chunin Exams. They goad him into doing so, but a scientist gives Boruto a device that allows him to use many different ninjutsu. It’s highly illegal of course so Boruto has to decide what to do. Does he really think that winning at any cost is the right thing to do? The true villains are also out there and are about to make their move!

As with The Last, you have the fight at the beginning and then there’s a long break before the fights near the end. That being said, I’d argue that the action is more prevalent than in the last movie. We still have the Chunin Exam fights which are nice. Nothing top tier about them, but the action scenes are still interesting and we don’t need to see planets being blown up every time. Although, it is a nice effect when it does happen. At the rate Naruto’s going, we could definitely get into DBZ levels soon enough. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for that.

The animation is also excellent. Whether it is a daytime scene or one at night, the battles look great. All of the character models are on point (Even if I don’t like a lot of the designs) and the flashy ninjutsu have never looked better. I’ve always considered Studio Pierrot to be one of the best animation companies and they brought their A game here. The only technical aspect of the film that doesn’t hit it out of the park would be the soundtrack. It was all right, a good soundtrack with some remixes and danger themes, but nothing stuck out for me in the same way as The Last. In The Last, we got some incredible fight themes that were amazing. None like that here, but it’s possible that it was just drowned out by the sound effects. The theater had the audio up quite high, which is always nice. You can definitely feel every blow.

Sasuke really steals the show in this film and the fans seemed to agree in the theater as they got hyped whenever he appeared. I’d also get ready for intensity since Sasuke being on screen typically means that a fight scene will be coming up. He actually shows himself to be a better father than Naruto and he goes off to save the hero when the going gets tough. That’s the Sasuke that I remember and it’s good to see him being a hero again. His new powers from the Rinnengan are certainly very helpful and make him almost unbeatable in a fight. While the film tries to show that he may still be slightly weaker than Naruto, I’d argue that he’s still got the edge if they were to ever have another fight.

Now, a quick negative is the fact that this film’s plot revolves around things that could never happen. Remember how Naruto The Last only works because Naruto is completely out of character? Sorry to burst your bubble readers, but Naruto and Hinata were always just friends and that’s how it was supposed to go. The film’s pairing of the two didn’t make sense and still doesn’t. Well, Naruto’s out of character once again, but in a different way. He has basically abandoned his family as he virtually lives in the Hokage’s office now. He can’t be bothered to attend his daughter’s birthday party or cheer on Boruto in person. He only even congratulates him after being told to do so. It’s like Naruto just stopped caring and decided to be as cold and aloof as possible.

It’s really overdone to the point where it’s just not realistic. There’s no way that Naruto would simply stop hanging out with his family. Being Hokage is a tough job, but not to the extent that the film is trying to portray it as. We’ve seen the other Hokage still have time to be at home or take random trips. Not to mention that Naruto’s shadow clones would make it easy to finish paperwork a lot faster than any other Kage could. I just didn’t buy the film’s reasoning. Naturally, Naruto becomes a likable character by the end as he realizes that he failed as a parent and becomes a little more like the old Naruto. It’s a character arc that was not needed, but at least Naruto changed his ways in time.

Unfortunately, he is also underpowered quite a bit in this film, but that was to be expected considering that all new anime films tend to have a lot of plot hax lately. Resurrection of F, Naruto The Last, and Battle of Gods were all big offenders of this. It’s just how it goes. The first battle with Naruto is the worst since he resorts to just trying to block the villain’s large energy ball. Naturally, he can’t pull this off. He should have fired back with a blast of his own or had an epic punch moment. He just played way too much defense and Sasuke is guilty of this to a smaller extent as well. At least Sasuke proved himself in the very beginning of the film. The other Kage don’t do so well, but they shouldn’t at this point anyway. They’re completely out of their depth in a fight like this one as they don’t have the physical abilities needed to keep up with Naruto or Sasuke. We do get more space type feats as blasts keep on going past the planet and the speed feats were also very good.
The power levels will always be wonky so let’s go back to the characters. Boruto is a pretty likable lead. He did have a big problem with cheating, but he got past it. It’s an interesting character development plot as I don’t remember just about any character having to deal with that. Most of them are just noble by nature, but this works as well. I liked Boruto and he’s a very reasonable character, he was actually a lot nicer than I had expected. I thought that he would be very mischievious and cause vandalism like Naruto did back in the days, but he’s more mature than that and takes things in stride. It’s good to see and I also like his new attire. While Boruto is out of his league against any serious villain right now, his abilities aren’t bad for his age. He just needs to work on his speed. I do give him props for attempting to fight Momoshiki after the villain hit Naruto. He was outmatched, but the fact that he actually tried was impressive.

Sarada already got a whole manga spinoff to herself so her role here wasn’t that big. She’s still proving to be a good supporting character and is already more helpful than Sakura was at the time. Sakura got good during Shippuden, but Sarada doesn’t have to wait that long. She’s already close to Boruto and maybe even a little stronger than him at the moment. Her goal of being the next Hokage is a solid one. Mitsuki’s a very bland character though and I can already tell that I’m not a fan. He looks up to Orochimaru which makes sense since he’s his son (Film treats it like a twist, but it’s really not. You know this the whole time thanks to his eyes and his stretching abilities) but he should also know that Orochimaru is basically evil. Orochimaru not being in jail is still a huge plot hole in the Naruto franchise if you ask me or mini me.

Most of the other new kids don’t get to do anything so I’ll reserve judgment on them for now. Kakashi surprisingly doesn’t get to do anything in this film. The 5 Kage appear briefly and they all look decently helpful in the big fight. The problem is that they’re all super weak compared to Naruto. They can’t even defeat the main henchman. They can slow the villains down, but that’s about it. Aside from one of the Kages who was quick to bash Boruto, they were all fairly likable. Perhaps just a little generic and uninspiring. Gaara feels like the only Kage who actually earned his feat. Killer Bee makes a cameo, but he looks really bad and basically is just here to get humiliated. Most of the original characters have terrible designs nowadays. In particular, I don’t like Shikamaru’s design. The hair on his chin just makes no sense from a character perspective and the rest of his friends are no better. He has a cool scene where he helps out though and is still a likable ally.

Now, let’s talk about the villains. Kinshiki is actually really cool and I’d say that he was slightly more likable than the main villain. His cool lightsaber made for a great weapon and he was extremely fast considering his build. He didn’t have much in the way of personality, but he gave the heroes a good fight and he definitely wanted revenge on Sasuke so he has some pride on his side. (Saw what I did there? Momoshiki likes to laugh and take cheap shots at the heroes, but he actually felt a little weaker than Kinshiki if you ask me. His gimmick was similar to Android 19’s and Pain in the sense that he could absorb ninjutsu. I can definitely roll with that, but physically he wasn’t that impressive. Once he accessed his final form, then Kinshiki became a true threat. The 2 on 1 fight scene between him and Sasuke/Naruto was definitely great. This guy can take a hit and is really good at close quarters combat. What he makes up for in personality, he makes up for with raw attack power. He likes to brag about how much stronger he is than the mere mortals of Earth. That’s always a fun gimmick.

We’ve now had members of Kaguya’s clan show up in the last two movies as well as the spinoff (Sorta, they were actually Orochimaru clones) and the final boss of the real series. It seems like they are constantly popping up out of the woodworks now. It’s mentioned that they crossed time and space to get here so it would be easy to invent more and more of these guys for future films. I’m fine with that since they make for good enemies. They have some eye tricks like all good enemies, but also have a great amount of speed and power. Of course, it’s hard to see them really being able to take down Sasuke Uchiha. What could be fun would be if a large group of these guys showed up so Naruto had to train some of the ninja to reach new levels of power. After all, Naruto and Sasuke have become the only fighters left in the village, similar to Goku and Vegeta.

I’m a little skeptical of the new village design though. The Leaf looks really vulnerable to attack like this and it seems like the village isn’t even totally made up of shinobi anymore. The other clans would have a field day attacking them now. Of course, the villages are all unified at the moment, but how long will that last? Eventually, there shall be fights again and it’s Naruto’s job to make sure that they are ready. The new scientists for the film were essentially filler characters who didn’t need to be involved so I don’t want too many humans like them showing up. It was also a little odd how they could just walk up slowly towards Naruto with their gizmos. They should have been ejected from the stadium. Let’s also not forget how they dashed into the portal at the last second. It’s hard to see how they would be fast enough to do that.

The only other negative for the Boruto film would be the Panda missions. There is really no point to having it here and the only reason why I don’t dock 3-5 stars from the film is that it’s handled in comic relief fashion to the point where the Panda is not seriously hurt. He gets a little salty after the heroes hit him, but the scene still has no point to being in the film. It’s not as gruesome as the eye scene in Naruto The Last, but it’s still pretty intense. Boruto was a happy film with a fun tone the entire time, but this just went a little far.

Slightly off topic, but this is where DC and Marvel can learn a thing or two from anime. Both Boruto the movie and DBZ Resurrection F were great movies that were light toned yet still had great fight scenes. DC and Marvel are engaged in a battle for which company can sink lower with their dark products with Marvel currently in the lead, but anime shows that you can be light toned and still be awesome. Resurrection F doesn’t even take itself seriously and it’s still awesome. Boruto’s a thrillride, but it’s still a very happy and chipper film. If DC and Marvel were to ever go back to that full time, we’d be back in the next age of animation! Hopefully they can listen to this at some point.

Above all, Boruto is just a very fun film. It’s rather short so you’ll breeze through it, but it’s a very enjoyable film. It doesn’t try to be very deep or emotional like Road to Ninja and Blood Prison (Two films that died in my eyes) and it manages to give us more hype moments than any other Naruto film even though there are large gaps in the film where there are no real fight scenes. This is the kind of film that has a lot of replay value and certainly more than Naruto The Last, which helps its case. Is this film better than Resurrection F? Hmmmm….usually this wouldn’t be much of a question as DBZ is just that awesome, but it actually is fairly close. I can tell you that Boruto crushes Battle of Gods without any effort. Boruto’s animation is much better than DBZ’s, but DBZ certainly has the better soundtrack. For now…..I’m going to say that Boruto was the better film, but it is close. I just feel like it was more epic, had better fights, and the stakes were certainly real. I’m still salty that the film’s tricking people into thinking that Goku can’t beat Bills or Whis. Goku would clobber them if you ask me. At least Goku is finally back in character though. Oh yeah, stick around past the credits for a slight stinger. It could have been better if you ask me, but it’s still something I suppose.

Overall, Boruto was a great film. It’s a good sign of things to come for Part III of the Naruto franchise. Boruto and the rest of the new generation are actually pretty solid characters so far, which is good to see. They should be able to hold their own movie/TV series for a while as we see them grow stronger and stronger. I don’t expect the stakes to get too high for a while since Naruto or Sasuke should be able to defeat whatever enemies head their way, but as the Chunin Exams showed, we can still get some fun fights and stories. That being said, while Boruto and his friends are solid characters, this movie also proved that Naruto and Sasuke are still the main draw. Now that we can finally have team ups with them again, people don’t want to be stuck watching the Boruto adventures. They want to see what Sasuke and Naruto can really achieve with their combo attacks. I’m in that boat as well and a feature length film with Naruto being the main character again would be great. The writers just need to do a better job with his character. He’s been out of character for two films straight now and that’s unacceptable! Sasuke was portrayed very accurately though and that’s the most important thing here. Whether you’ve seen the Naruto franchise or not, this is a good movie to pick up. It’s a solid action adventure with high stakes and well written characters. It’s a blast through and through as the pacing doesn’t let up for a second.

Overall 9/10

Cardcaptor Sakura Review

This is another title that I started a very long time ago, but finally got around to finishing it. I used to watch the show when I was a kid and it was certainly a classic along with Sailor Moon. I saw it so many times that some episodes are really stuck in my memory and I remember the animation being pretty good considering how old it was. Unfortunately, the manga is typically not quite as exciting as the anime and overall it was not as enjoyable. The story is good and we do get some solid action from time to time, but subplots hold it down.

Sakura has been chosen to find all of the Clow Cards. They were made by an incredibly powerful sorcerer who died many years ago. Once Sakura has them all, she will have abilities that far outshine those of the other mortals. The problem is that she isn’t the only one collecting the cards as a kid named Li is also hunting them. Sakura must find them fast because most of the cards like to cause terror and destruction. Balancing this out with her school life will be tough, but Sakura is up to the task!

After the main plot is over, the manga has a second arc. A mysterious kid appears who seems to have great magical power and he is causing some trouble. Sakura’s cards have also lost their power so now she must transform all of them into Sakura Cards. What do the villains want and is Sakura prepared to fight the opponents? (She’s a pretty big pacifist so fighting anyone can be difficult for her) Luckily, Li is here to help, but more backup would still be appreciated. Is it time for Cerberus to join in on the action?

The series is a little over 10 volumes although I read it in omnibus format so it was considerably shorter. Each volume was around 500 pages this way and I actually managed to read the final 500 in one sitting because I was ready to see how everything ended. The manga is not without its problems, but the premise still proves to hold up well. I always like the “Gotta Catch Em All” format as it typically works quite well. The manga/anime still has to be careful not to be too repetitive, but that’s usually the only concern with the plot. The first arc doesn’t really have a main villain as a result, but that’s what we have the second arc for.

Sakura is the main character and her life is changed when Cerberus meets her. Sakura is more than happy to catch all of the cards, but she’s not a fighter at heart so she tries to catch them peacefully. It’s why she’s lucky that there were no real villains for quite a while as dealing with cards is less personal. She has a crush on one of the supporting characters for a while, but luckily she manages to get over it by the final volume. That subplot was definitely not great for her. Sakura is fairly generic as far as protagonists go, but not in a good way. I prefer the outgoing, ready to fight, kind of main character. Sakura is more on the timid side. She’s a nice heroine, but a little bland and harder to root for than you would hope from the lead.

Cerberus is Sakura’s animal partner and he’s not bad. Once we find out that he has a true form, things get more fun for his fans. Cerberus can shoot giant energy blasts and he’s a real trooper. From Sakura’s two guardians, Cerberus is easily my favorite member. He’s a very loyal ally to have and it’s safe to say that Sakura wouldn’t have lasted quite as long without him. He’s easily the best hero in the series, which is cool. Yue is Sakura’s other guardian and he’s fairly tough. He has an energy sword at the ready, which he uses to slice away at his foes. He starts off as an antagonist and doesn’t think that Sakura is worthy of the cards, but he eventually comes around. Due to his current predicament of being stuck in someone’s body, Yue’s screen time is considerably less than Cerberus’. His design helps me to believe that he is stronger than Cerberus as he has the speed edge, but Cerberus still wins in terms of personality. Sakura definitely lucked out by having two powerful guardians.

Li is Sakura’s rival who eventually drops down to just being her friend. He’s decently tough, but Sakura is the true chosen warrior so he is left with only a small handful of cards and a sword. He provides her with a good assist during the manga though and he’s not totally helpless. That being said, he spends a great amount of time just arguing with Toya and being insulted by the villains. He’s simply too oblivious at times and the way that he handled his moving situation with Sakura left a lot to be desired. At least he claims that he was going to tell her…but it’s just a claim.

Tomoyo is Sakura’s best friend in the series and she is always making costumes for Sakura to wear. Unfortunately, she’s a pretty bad character. While not nearly as outrageous or insane as Chizuru from Bleach, Tomoyo is basically in love with Sakura and the manga makes sure to mention and hint at this whenever she appears. It’s certainly unnecessary and it’s too bad that they couldn’t just be friends. Tomoyo knows that they will always be just friends because Sakura already has someone that she likes, but it’s still an unnecessary plot development that hurts the series a little since Tomoyo appears a whole lot.

Toya and Yukito’s plot is the other subplot that hurts the series. They were best friends for most of the series. Toya would help his sister, Sakura, out whenever trouble arose and Yukito was just a nice guy who ignored Sakura’s infatuation with him. Then, the manga decides to go the Tomoyo and Sakura route with these two, which was just sad. Toya was the tough character of the series, but that goes away once his magic is taken away and then the plot with him and Yukito stops being veiled. The series definitely had a thing for characters turning out to ultimately be gay, which was regrettable. The series also placed a ton of focus on romance in general, which hurt.

It’s one of the main reasons why I found the anime to be more exciting although they certainly did include many of the plots, it was always very subtle. Of course, I saw the dub and that was a long time ago so perhaps the subs just decide to let loose as well. This is the big reason as to why the franchise could never be as good as Sailor Moon. While Sailor Moon’s fight scenes were often anti-climactic, the series as a whole was just a lot more fun. Less romance and more action is typically a recipe for success.

Eriol is the big villain of the final arc and he’s definitely not a great bad guy. He’s constantly talking a good game and saying vague things, but I can’t take him seriously. He has strong abilities that rival Clow Reed’s and he could have easily defeated Sakura at any time. It simply wasn’t part of the plan though so he holds back a lot. This is definitely the kind of villain who should never be the final boss. He’s just a smug kid when it all boils down to it and the sooner he was off screen the better.

Eriol’s two minions are Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun. They are essentially copies of Cerberus and Yue and were created to be slightly stronger than the originals. Ruby Moon likes to mess around with the guys in the series, but she is still a strong fighter when she gets serious. Her energy sword packs a punch and she was defeating Yue for most of their fight. Spinel Sun is essentially a dark Cerberus and he seems like a nice guy even though he acts tough. They don’t get a whole lot to do in the series, but Eriol definitely needed them since he would have certainly been outnumbered otherwise.

This is Clamp so the art is good as you would expect. It can get very convoluted like with Tsubasa at times, but this is very rare due to the lack of action scenes. Typically, the series just has a lot of large panels, which makes it easy to see what is happening and just blast through the chapters. It’s why you can read the volumes so quickly for this series. Everything is very clear and the style reminds me of Bleach. It’s certainly tough to beat.

As I mentioned, we do get some fight scenes though, which is always cool. The final battle has Sakura’s two guardians fight the fakes while Sakura takes on Eriol. It’s one of the only full fledged fights in the series so it was a good one to watch. In Arc 1, it was more of a test for the final showdown so while there was action, it wasn’t quite as real. More action scenes would have definitely been a lot of fun for this series.

The lack of action may not have been quite a bad thing either if the characters had been more likable. It’s hard to put my thumb on it besides the gay themes in the background, but none of the characters were interesting or likable. It felt like a very old series, but not in a fun and campy way. For example, Kitchen Princess and Pandora Hearts are two series where there isn’t a lot of action all of the time, but the characters are still interesting and relatable. In Cardcaptor Sakura, we don’t really have anyone like that. I don’t think that I really ended up liking a single one of the human characters and for a 12 volume series, that’s not a good thing. The only characters who ended up being good were the guardians for me and they could fight so that was an added bonus.

This series may be a classic, but it’s safe to say that it’s be dethroned by series like Sailor Moon, Angelic Layer, (Not exactly Shojo, but close enough) and Magic Knight Rayearth. Those titles had a lot more action and better main characters to stay up there. While Sakura has better artwork than Sailor Moon and mayyyyyybe Rayearth, (Not Angelic Layer, but not many things can beat that one) it’s not enough to bridge the gap.

A reboot could actually help Cardcaptor Sakura. As I mentioned, one of the problems is that the series feels really dated in a bad way. A modern reboot could help to address this and I’m confident that more action would be included as well. The series is old enough where it would be nostalgic for a lot of people so I can see this working. As for whether it will actually get a reboot, the odds are certainly slim to say the least, but you never know.

Despite its flaws, the series was still pleasant enough to read. The calm art style and slice of life aspects made for an easy read. It’s easy to just pick up and read because of how simple it can be and I’m always happy to have another series around. In the end, the negatives ensured that I couldn’t end up calling it a good title, but it still wasn’t actually boring. It was just hard to relate to any of the characters and sometimes it felt like the series wasn’t really going anywhere.

Overall, Cardcaptor Sakura is a title that many people will likely remember right away. I enjoyed the TV show back when I used to watch it, but the manga couldn’t quite live up to the anime’s memory. The character cast just isn’t good and the gay themes between some of the characters were simply not needed. The art is good and the fight scenes are great when they actually happen, but there really aren’t enough battles to keep the series up. If you’re in the mood for a good Shojo title, I’d recommend reading Sailor Moon instead. The stakes actually do get very high over there towards the end of the series and the Sailor Scouts are more interesting heroines than Sakura. As with Fire Emblem, I have now finished another series that I began several years ago. It always feels good to complete another series and I’m one step closer to finally getting my Naruto manga review up.

Overall 4/10

Sakura Hime The Legend of Princess Sakura Review

Sakura Hime is a Shojo story that you may not have heard of. It’s not a completely obscure title, but it’s still not very well known. It tries to delve into the action genre while also keeping the romance in, which makes for a tricky balance. It’s definitely no Shonen Jump title, but I suppose that it is certainly better than most of the other Shojo series. I can’t give it a passing grade, but the fight scenes were pretty cool.

This story takes place in a land filled with monsters and kings. The setting is a fantasy land that seems pretty primitive by today’s standards. There are certainly no electronics to speak of. A young girl by the name of Sakura is found out to be a Yokai. She is one of the legendary monsters that hails from the moon and she is able to wield the legendary Chizakura blade. Prince Oura is sent to destroy her, but he decides not too since he naturally falls in love with her at first sight. The government still doesn’t trust her so Prince Oura is in a tricky spot.

Not wasting any time, the denizens of the moon decide to attack in full force. Their leader is immensely powerful and he seems to have some history with Sakura. The plot developments and twists will give Sakura some doubts as to what side she should choose. Both of them have shady pasts and many people will feel the effects of her decisions. Luckily, she is Princess Sakura (Did the title just spoil the series?) so she is always ready for action!

Sakura is the main character so it was interesting to see how cool she would be compared to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sakura Haruno. It’s safe to say that she comes in third place from this trio. (At least manga wise) She isn’t a bad character though and she certainly has her moments, but she has a tough time going all out. She always feels bad for the villains and she refuses to fight more than once. She is easily one of the stronger characters in the series since her blade can destroy any yokai with a single hit. This just means that there will be many excuses for her to miss the enemy. Her romance with Prince Oura is definitely one of the low points for her, but another one is that she lets so many guys hit on her without putting up enough resistance. She should just tell them to go away and slice them down with her sword if they do not. She has to put up with a lot of negativity from the villagers. (At least she gets to use intro lines that would even make Sailor Moon proud when she does get to fight)

Another problem is that she’s a little too gullible. She lets the government capture her with ease, which was pretty awful. It’s really a good thing that Enchu was there that time since her mind would have quickly broken under the government’s trap. That situation should have definitely been avoided and she should have known that something was up. It’s just sad to see someone as powerful as her be defeated by the government so easily. In the end, she may not be a bad main character and she beats some of her Shojo counterparts, but she definitely isn’t one of the better ones out there.

Prince Oura is the main guy in this series and he’s definitely an unlikable character. He was terrible when he first appeared, but he definitely got better as the series went on. That being said, he went from terrible to just unlikable as he never became a good character for me. He always seems ungrateful and he decides to keep secrets from Sakura right up til the very end. He certainly doesn’t make things easy for her. He’s a part of the government so he should be trying to make things better, but he usually just goes along with what the higher ups want. When it comes to matters involving Sakura, he quickly stops them, but he doesn’t do much more than that. He just seems like a pawn of the government when he could be an instrumental figure in changing them. Maybe someday…maybe. Either way, he lost his chance at being a likable character a long time ago.

Asagiri is a little snow fairy who helps Sakura out during the series. Things definitely get dicey for her in the climax since she is captured and the heroes are too slow to really do anything about it. By the time they get to her, it’s almost too late. “Almost” being the key word of course and we have Sakura to thank for her rescue. She is definitely a good character and I’d say that she is one of Sakura’s best allies. As with another one of Sakura’s allies, Asagiri has a super form at her disposal.

Byakuya protects Sakura and acts as her mentor. She used to wield the sacred sword and she’s pretty powerful when she fights in her true form. Typically, she fights under the guise of an old woman, but this is just an act to make the opponent lower their guard. She’s pretty good and she has a twist at the very end of the series that is pretty intriguing. It’s definitely impressive for her, but it also does undermine the final villain to an extent. She doesn’t live up to the Byakuya name that we know from Bleach, but she is a talented fighter and a loyal companion.
Kohaku is a ninja who works for Sakura and she places the Princess’ safety before her obligations to the main house. That is a good thing since it means that Sakura can actually trust her. Unfortunately, she starts to develop feelings for two other ninja, which creates another subplot that we didn’t really need. It doesn’t help that both of them are constantly running away and making themselves scarce. Kohaku doesn’t get a whole lot of closure as the series ends, but she does get her own fight during arc 1. That was pretty good, but it was the only action that she really got in the series. She’s a good ninja though and certainly better than her partner.

Hayate is a very confused man who doesn’t really know what he wants. He thinks that he likes Kohaku, but then he starts to like Rurijo before trying to get back together with Kohaku in the final chapters. I definitely wouldn’t accept him if I was her since Hayate can’t make up his mind. Hayate was cursed to be a frog for a very long time so he misses out on most of the series. He can turn into a human when the full moon is out so he does try to get some fight scenes in, but mostly he is just a bystander. I’m glad that he didn’t rat out Rurijo to the corrupt government and the heroes, but he certainly didn’t do it for the right reasons. This is definitely one shinobi that I didn’t like.

Rurijo was made out of tree branches as a clone of Sakura. This way her very existence can remind Enju of the princess and how he needs to save her from the pesky government and Prince Oura. As such, she gets a pretty sad character arc since Enju only sees her as a substitute. She must constantly go to water to replenish her strength and everyone always seems to get upset at her when she tries to destroy Sakura. By the second half of the series, she is still learning to cope with this, but it’s slow goings. Things temporarily grow brighter for her when she gets a new master only for everything to go sour once again. This is one character who never really got to be happy. She can definitely be likable and she was a fun villain during the first half. Alas, she always longs to be with Enju, which hurts her character. She’s oblivious to Hayate, so I’ll give her some credit for that, but she should have stuck to being a great warrior who mows down the heroes.

Enju is the big villain and he lasts for the whole series. He has a pretty traumatic past, which led him to betray the government and become the big villain. Deep down he mainly wants to help Sakura, but he loses sight of this goal from time to time. He’s definitely a villain no matter how sympathetic the series tries to make him. That being said, you could call him a villain of circumstance as the government turned him into what he is today. It’s all pretty tragic for him although his last minute change of heart was more than a little hard to swallow. His personality just did a 180 in the span of 2 chapters. The series was ending so I’m guessing that the author just wanted to wrap that part up. I appreciate his loyalty, but he’s still not really my kind of villain. I do like the fact that he is a great fighter though and he works pretty well as a serious villain.

Shuri is a ninja who really tries to play all of the sides. On the surface he appears to be working for Enju, but this is actually a mission that the government gave to him. He also helps Prince Oura and the others when it is convenient for him so he really can’t be trusted. You could say that he’ll help Kohaku over his obligations to the other places, but I’m not really sure about that. This is one guy that I definitely would not trust. His ending is definitely emotional, but I didn’t care for his character from the start so it definitely wasn’t a big loss for me.

Maimai’s role felt much smaller than most of the other villains. He cares a lot about looks and exteriors, but he’s actually a “tough” villain when things get serious. I really couldn’t take him seriously and Maimai just isn’t a great villain. Maimai doesn’t really have any grand ambition or good reasons to help Enchu. As a result, he comes across as having no real character so he never stood a chance of being a cool villain.

Kaguya is the ultimate villain and the final one to take the stage. It comes as no great shock that she is pretty powerful. She doesn’t have much in the way of character since her screen time is so brief, but she still manages to be a pretty cool antagonist. She’s someone that you can certainly root for and she’s probably the best villain in the series. She also gives us our first fight where Sakura gets a speed feat. It’s not an incredible one, but it’s a speed feat nonetheless. It’s too bad that Kaguya couldn’t last a little longer, but she served her purpose of being a good villain.

The series definitely has quite a few flaws that keep it from being a real contender in the manga ranks. Naturally, the biggest obstacle is the fanservice. Seeing as how this is a Shojo title, it’s surprising that it is so prevalent in this series. Particularly with Rurijo since she is constantly at the hot springs. The plot reason for this is that she has to constantly go somewhere where she can be in the water because she is made of tree branches. Nevertheless, that plot could have been changed so that this wouldn’t be necessary.

Another factor is the romance. For the record, I haven’t actually bashed the romance angle in many of my recent reviews, but this one definitely deserves the harsh treatment. For one, Prince Oura is a really cheap guy, although you already know that from my earlier writings of him. I disapprove of Sakura going to him, especially after his threats and decision to destroy her in the beginning if not for her quick thinking. It goes a little far and this naturally lasts until the very end of the series so it continues to appear no matter how much you want it to go away.

Again, I do have to give the series props for the fight scenes though. For the first half of the series, we get to a point where 3-4 volumes in a row are composed of action scenes. We get to take a break from the typical slice of life moments to actually get a Shonen feel. Everyone splits up and chooses an enemy to face. It’s pretty fun and if the whole series was like that, I think it may have had a chance to creep all the way up to a 6. The characters on both sides were pretty well developed so the throwaway fights felt like real ones as well. The enemies were probably a little too strong compared to the heroes, but such is the fate of the humans in their war against demons.

One thing that’s pretty sad is that the government is pretty awful. They’re totally corrupt and they get away with just about everything. They naturally dislike the Yokai and they force the main villain into a water tank, which repeatedly destroys him until his mind breaks. They are the reason why he is evil and they nearly do the same to Sakura before that same villain arrives to save her. After that, you really don’t want the heroes to help the government, but they do and the higher ups never really get what’s coming to them. Enju takes out quite a few of them, but there are always more. One of the side characters is going to become the next leader of the place so maybe he can help right? The problem is that he’s also pretty corrupt so he won’t be much of an improvement.

With traitors like that as allies, there really aren’t many characters to root for. You can’t root for the villains either since they want destruction as well. It just makes everything hazy and while you can sympathize with Sakura’s desire to help everyone, she tends to make problems even bigger at times with her inability to really make a decision. Imprisoning the government officials and taking the Yokai down seems to be the best bet, but with a prince as one of the main characters…that will be difficult.

The art is definitely pretty good for the series. I won’t call it downright amazing, but it’s certainly better than I had expected it to be. It’s very clear and the fight scenes occur pretty smoothly. It definitely made everything a little more enjoyable than it could have been and I think the author must have read a lot of Shonen manga since the action scenes have the epic zoom ins and classic dialogue that we’ve come to expect. The art perfectly captures these moments and I definitely give the series a big thumbs up there.
Overall, Sakura Hime is a series that is plagued by the fanservice and romantic plots that tend to overwhelm it at times. If the series had stopped after arc 1, it definitely had a decent shot at landing a solid 6. As it is, I think that the second arc basically cut this series in half. You can blame at least 90% of that on Oura, but I suppose that we have to blame the Emperor and some of the other characters as well. How the government is allowed to continue their rule is certainly beyond me. Just about all of the higher ups are fairly corrupt so you really can’t trust anyone on either the human or the yokai side. If you want a romance series with some action, this is definitely the right series for you. As it stands, I can’t really recommend this title and would turn you to another Shojo like Kitchen Princess or Sailor Moon for a better experience.

Overall 3/10

Naruto Shippuden Road to Ninja Review

I finally checked out one of the latest Naruto films. This one got the most hype out of any Naruto film. Even the new one that came out about a month ago didn’t get the same kind of publicity as this one. This was going to be the ultimate Naruto film with the best villain yet. I understand that a lot of people did like the villain, but I can’t say that he was for me. This film suffers from the fact that it seems to appeal to the general audience a lot like the last film, but it’s still a decently good movie. We’re just falling back to the pre Shippuden level for the films.

Naruto and Sakura are having some drama with their parents/lack of parents. This results in some tense scenes in the beginning, which inevitably leads them to conclude that their lives would be better off if they could have swapped parental situations. That’s when the Masked Man appears and blasts them into an alternate world where that is the case. Naruto and Sakura realize that they’re going to really have to put some effort in if they want to escape this world and they’ll need to stop the Masked Man. The only problem is that the Masked Man looks a little different in this world. No matter, time to take him out!

Well, it’s a pretty fun plot, but the movie just messed up in several areas. I will admit that I was worried from the very start, but luckily the film fixed my problem with the intro. Let’s just say that it plays out like a bad fanfic. (Good concept, but terrible execution = bad fanfic) The Genin 11 (Mostly Chunins at this point) are slaughtering the Akatsuki when the film starts. It’s embarrassing for the big villains who used to be a threat. Even Itachi and Kisame are treated like random minions. I was definitely wincing a little during this fight since the disregard for power levels was at an all time high. I feel like power levels tend to be more inaccurate as you go through a series so that made me extra cautious here. Luckily, we get a big twist that makes the Akatsuki look better while making Naruto look worse.

I definitely did not like Naruto as he is treated like a plot device to get things rolling. He suddenly starts to feel bad about not having any parents and he takes it out on Iruka. It’s just not the Naruto that we remember. He got over that a long time ago and seeing his parents in his memories was enough to finally snap him out of that. He’s proud of what they did so he would never wish that they were back here. It seems like something that the writers felt was “realistic” for a kid who didn’t have any parents so they threw that in. This transitions into the general audience problem, but I’ll sidestep from that for a little longer.

Naruto gets to meet up with fake versions of his parents and he decides that he’ll act like a rude person so that they’ll stay away from him. He decides that he’s not going to play the Masked Man’s games, but he’s stuck in the world for now so breaking ties with them is not the best way to go about it. Not to mention that fake Minato is the reason why he will get to go on the mission in the first place. If Naruto really didn’t want to hang out with them, he should have just slept on the bench or in the woods like last time. As long as he is in the house, he should definitely act hospitable.

Even worse than Naruto’s actual personality though is definitely how weak he looks. Naruto has long since surpassed everyone in his village by now so he should have crushed the “Akatsuki” in the opening now that we know the twist. He looks worse than most of his allies there and it’s sad since he was the first one to rush in. Then, he finally gets to face off against Menma and he is thoroughly outclassed. His Sage Mode is unable to do anything so he is forced to summon a giant monster so that we can have a one hit KO attack when he finally gets close to Menma. Not exactly how I pictured the final battle.

Sakura doesn’t look very good either. Temporarily she doesn’t even care about going back to the real world. This also happens to Naruto in the second half, which is also pretty disappointing. She also has her arguments with her parents that is out of character, but still counts against her in this film. Her portrayal definitely wasn’t very good like with Naruto, but she could have been a lot worse. Just look at most of the supporting characters. Once again, it’s safe to say that the Leaf Village is pretty unlikable. Iruka deciding not to recommend Naruto to be a Jounin is just a really low blow. This is why nobody can trust this village, they’re always stabbing each other in the back.

Time to back it up a little. The film really feels like it’s trying to be a decent introductory movie to new viewers in a few ways. One way is that we get to see Naruto’s origin story once again (Luckily we skip all of the bullying this time) and Naruto hasn’t gotten over the death of his parents like I mentioned earlier. Sakura’s arguments with her parents are completely out of character for her and it’s just here so that she can be a part of the plot. It’s also a common plot to use for a film so the writers just couldn’t pass it up. (The Author was the main one who decided what the film would be like, but I say writers because the film guys likely helped along the way with their suggestions) Another way that it feels like a general audience film is that the climax is a giant monster battle instead of a nice hand to hand experience.

Let’s face it, “Bigger is better” is still a popular saying in films. So, instead of letting audiences see Naruto and Menma go at it in a DBZ style confrontation, we get to see the Nine Tailed Fox duel a giant monster. They are naturally implied to be far superior to Naruto and Menma is strength even though they look pretty unimpressive. They can spam their energy blasts, but the small range of the blasts (They strike more vertically than horizontally) means that we end up with two monsters who are effectively “camping.” They just keep firing blasts at the other and none of them actually connect. It’s more of a chase than an actual fight and then we get the one punch that ends it all.

That would have been the more disappointing final anime fight since Pokemon if not for the fact that we quickly get another fight after that. Unfortunately, the film was running out of time by then so Naruto’s fight against the Masked Man is very short. No worries, they decide to rip some scenes out of the manga as Naruto wins in a move that pays homage to Minato’s fight. The film’s homages didn’t begin there though as Naruto’s punch with Menma is almost identical to how Naruto defeated Gaara back in the day. I like homages….actually I don’t. Thinking about it now, they’re typically just not good and take away opportunities. Look at Avengers Assemble and how often it copies the film. It’s always best to do something unique and a homage should be more subtle than just copying a fight scene. That’s a lesson that this film really needs to learn.

The film’s animation is pretty good. It’s definitely not something to write home about, but the quality is definitely very good and it makes for a pleasurable viewing experience. I think it’s a little dicey that a show that’s a few years old like Fate/Zero looks better than this film, but that company’s animation budget is just through the roof so I suppose that it’s not fair to compare. What hurts this film a lot is the fact that we didn’t get any real fight scenes, or at least ones that would have a chance to shine. No character uses any fancy energy weapons or has a power up scene where the animators can have fun with the aura. The energy blasts from the Kaiju are the only chance for the film to show off its movie budget and the blasts look good, but they’re more like energy balls so you can’t really make them look quite as good as a Kamehameha no matter how much time you spend drawing it. The fight against the Akatsuki is pretty smooth, but not flashy in the slightest, which is why it actually doesn’t look impressive. You could compare it to the fights against Kakuzu and Hidan in the series and it would actually be pretty similar. The film is more streamlined, but just not as explosively colorful sometimes.

This film borrows just about all of its themes from previous films and the show. That’s pretty sad for it, but it’s a new trend for films based off of old franchises nowadays. It’s a pretty bad trend if you ask me since the music may be established and great, but you need to keep making new songs. Imagine a time where all films just use old tunes and remixes of old tunes. That’s not what we want to see, but the soundtrack is definitely 5 stars worthy. They’re old, but the themes are tried and true. They’re perfect for battle scenes and some of the villain themes really make you feel like the end is near. They’re fitting for such a world filled with despair as everyone fears Menma.

Speaking of which, one of the gimmicks for this film was that Naruto’s supporting cast would have warped personalities in the alternate world. It’s a decent sub plot in concept I suppose, but totally unnecessary. I always liked the idea of parrellel worlds, but just turning all of the heroes to villains and villains to heroes would suffice for me. Instead, the writers decided to make just about all of them unlikable. We have a few perverts, and more of the others are either really meek or too aggressive to the point where they are antagonistic. It’s hard to imagine how this village lasted for a year, much less up to now. There are no good fighters and the whole world lives in fear of Menma.

Time to finally talk about Menma. Saying Menma’s true identity is hardly a spoiler since it’s probably basic Naruto knowledge at this point considering how popular he became for a while, (Not to mention that the actual plot mixed in with the tie in episode makes it a logical conclusion) but I shall not mention it just in case. He has brought the entire Shinobi world to its knees and he is feared as the ultimate Naruto villain. He knows about the Masked Man and then he decides to destroy the Red Moon scroll. It is the one thing that can defeat him so he heads to the Leaf Village to destroy it and that’s when the climax begins. He can summon several monsters like Pain and his physical abilities are already pretty considerable. He is able to catch a Sage Mode Punch from Naruto, which is no easy feat. Unfortunately, the film was just toying with us there as he doesn’t actually fight. Instead, the monster battle begins. From that one moment, we can tell that he is a tough villain, but he just couldn’t end up showing it.

Menma is ultimately an unlikable character despite his powers. One of the main reasons is that he seems to just be a tool the whole time. He has no real motivations and he seems to just fight for the thrills. What really doesn’t help this is the fact that he has a terrible voice. It’s one of the worst voices that I’ve heard for a final boss in some time. It doesn’t strike fear into you or make you gain respect for his character. It just makes Menma seem like a villain who’s tough talk is all that he’s got. Menma’s true design is pretty good and the voice luckily shifts, but it’s hard to watch his masked form.

This review is definitely turning out longer than I had expected. Partially it’s due to how many ways the film went wrong, but also just because this is a Naruto film so there is a lot to discuss. Naruto’s fake parents look pretty good for the most part. One scene is there to quickly reinforce the point that Naruto’s parents were better so that he could leave with no regrets. It definitely shows how much fun it would have been if the parents had been here since the beginning. That would make for a pretty good AU spinoff series since the Leaf Village would definitely be overpowered with them in the ranks. In a way, that’s how it should have been.

I think I’ve addressed most of the points in this film by now. Time to quickly mention one of the negatives that certainly helped to drag the film down. The fanservice. This film has a lot more of it than usual, which is pretty disappointing. It’s not a huge amount, but for Naruto film standards it is considerable. We have the generic bath house scene, which is pretty cringe worthy. There is really no point to it at all. It’s probably just there to get in some more money, but this has always been a pretty cheap trick. You don’t need fanservice in a film and then having two of the characters be perverted for no reason is also in bad taste.

This film is pretty long, but it doesn’t know how to maximize the time that it is given. Too much time is spent on showing us how everything is a little different and not enough is spent on the actual fights or the villain. The film is already almost over by the time that the final fight happens so naturally it is given the shaft instead of the filler moments. Definitely not a good move for the film if you ask me. The film could have been the usual 70 or so minutes without a lot of the filler moments or 2 hours with more action. Either way, it would have been a huge improvement from what we did get.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Was this movie as disappointing as Battle of Gods? I’m going to say no although it’s very close. My hopes for this film were slightly tempered by Blood Prison while I had nothing to protect me from Battle of Gods before hand. This film still had a great soundtrack, which Battle of Gods lacked although the DBZ film had the much better fight. It just goes to show that the modern films for these two series are not as good as the classics, but that just means that the sequels have a higher chance of being better than these. I’m already hyped for the return of Frieza and I think that the final Naruto film should be pretty good as well. I don’t have high hopes for that one anyway, but the big battle should be good.

In the missed opportunities section, there are definitely a few things that come to mind. One of them is Sasuke since his appearance literally has no point here. He just gets 2-4 lines and that’s about it. He’s relegated to the background like most of the characters here. That’s pretty sad for his fans when the trailers made it seem like he would actually get to do something. The Masked Man’s plan at the end is decent, but plot hax get in the way of this and he also looks rather weak since Sakura is able to hold her own against him for so long. Sakura is a tough fighter, but she’s not Naruto level so he should have been able to crush the Masked Man considering how Sakura’s fight turned out.

Now, I should probably summarize what the positives of the film are since we have so many negatives. How does it actually deserve a 6? Well, we still get a decent fight with the Akatsuki at the beginning and watching them fight random monsters at the end may not be extremely amusing, but it’ll do as an action scene. You just need to ignore the power levels for this film and then you’ll enjoy the fights a lot more. The actual concept is interesting, but it just isn’t used very well. The soundtrack and animation are pretty good as well of course. The film is also pretty interesting while you’re watching it and it’s a fun film. It’s a popcorn fun, action block buster so you’ll leave it feeling satisfied. Amidst all of the negatives, you have to remember that this is still a Shonen Jump film. The designs are unique and the fights are fun. We have good amounts of those two positives here and mixed in with the music, you’ve got the makings of a pretty good film. That’s about it for positives I’m afraid, but they’ll do.

Overall, Road To Ninja is definitely one of the worst Shippuden films and probably ranks pretty low on the all time Naruto list. It loses to films 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. I’m going to say for now that it does beat films 1 and 5 though. 5 was probably the ultimate disappointing Naruto film since Sasuke was in it, but he couldn’t save it. This is a good film to introduce you to the world of Naruto and Naruto fans should still enjoy the fights. Just be prepared for all of Naruto’s friends to look pretty awful and for the unnecessary fanservice included. Also, brace yourself for the final battle because you are sure to be disappointed unless you were waiting for a giant monster fight. The soundtrack and animation are pretty solid and it’s still a good film despite all of the flaws. This review was certainly on the negative side, but that just seems to be the fate of the modern anime films that get a lot of hype. Obscure titles like Bleach 4 and Yugioh 3D seem to get all of the fun. You’re still guaranteed a fun experience here.

Overall 6/10

Naruto Shippuden Blood Prison Review

Naruto Shippuden Blood Prison is a Naruto film that got pretty good reception when it came out. There was a decent amount of hype around its release and the concept was a new twist for the franchise. That being said, I was never really hyped for it from the trailer wasn’t amazing although it was pretty good. It is just one of those cases where the trailer was better than the film. The same thing happened with the 5th film while the opposite was true for the 6th and 7th.

The plot begins with a cutaway to the Raikage’s lair. He orders his minions to find a certain box because it can grant any wish, but they are quickly attacked by Naruto Uzumaki. Naruto easily overpowers the minions, but the Raikage sends him packing. Similar incidents occur across the Ninja World so the Hokage banishes Naruto to Blood Prison. Naruto claims that he is innocent, but now he is stuck with a corrupt jailer and actual crooks. Getting out of here could be tougher than he thought.

Well, I thought that the film just had a lot of missed opportunities. It certainly didn’t capitalize on any positives that could have turned the tides for the film. It is still a good movie to be sure, but if could have been better. One twist that would have helped a lot would have been for Naruto to have escaped with his friends in pursuit.

Okay, time to tackle one of the big negatives. I don’t like when allies betray each other and are still portrayed as heroes. Unfortunately, that happens here as Naruto is betrayed by the very people he has been protecting for years. It is a pretty cringeworthy scene and it also shows us the ugly side of the Hidden Leaf village that we always try to forget. The Ninja are very much like Gladiator from X-Men or the Paladin from Blue Exorcist. Friendships seem to mean nothing to them and they will follow their leader’s orders without question. Even if the leader is corrupt they shall keep going. Just look at the sand when Orochimaru was leading them or all of the Leaf Shinobi who followed Danzo. The ninja don’t really think as they let the leader do that for them. It is part of why I like to root against the Leaf sometimes. Still, you wouldn’t expect that from the other Genin or Kakashi. It is just a little too much and I definitely did not like their portrayal here. They also attacked Naruto in film 6……Good thing this is happening in the film and not the show.

The soundtrack is decent, but there isn’t a lot of action for most of the film so we don’t get a chance to see any action scenes for a while. They reuse a theme from film 6 that I liked a lot so it was cool to see that one make a comeback. This film did have an original battle track or two. One of them had a good start and then fizzled out while I remember the other one being decent. I have no qualms with the overall soundtrack.

The animation is decently good. Unfortunately, none of the fighters have real energy attacks so the film can’t really get to show off how good it can be. Likewise, the backgrounds are all pretty similar since he is stuck in a jail. The sun is always red there which probably saves the film’s budget a little. The fight scene at the end does look pretty good though as it goes all Bleach on us and all of the fan favorite characters get to use their big attacks. Naruto’s speed feats also look pretty impressive as well.

The final fight was a pretty mixed bag for me though. It was cool to see a (Slayers) Monster as the big villain, but it was also sad because it meant that we wouldn’t get a real one on one hand to hand fight. The monster is big and he can dodge attacks with ease, but it is not as exciting as it would have been with a fellow humanoid. Just look at the villain from 2 films ago to see what I mean. Of course, watching all of the heroes get beaten up was pretty fun. It is scary just how weak they all look here and the film basically just says that Naruto could beat the whole village. I probably agree with this, but they definitely should have done better. Opening some of the inner gates or using Kamui would have been a nice start for the heroes. Maybe next time.

Of course, the fight still looks really good and the villain lasts for a while. He certainly wasn’t going down without a fight and he can fire energy blasts. That’s really all you need to help elevate the average film and it was exciting to watch. The fight also felt a little closer to DBZ than usual since Naruto was basically relying on fist barrages for most of the battle.

One plotline still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me though. After “Naruto” attacks the Raikage he tells his minions to go get Killer Bee since they needed to find the box ASAP. Then they vanish until the very ending. Did it really take them so long to find the box? It wasn’t very well hidden to be honest and it makes the heroes look pretty bad. Of course, they already looked pretty bad.

Maroi is one of the main prisoners since he is pretty shifty. He seems to be working for Mui one minute and then for the heroes the next. He’s definitely not the kind of guy that you would trust in a heartbeat. I actually expected a plot twist involving his character that simply never took place. He seems to be a decently tough shinobi, but he’s nowhere near the real ninja. (So, I’d call him Chunin level) He’s still not likable though and we learn that he certainly cannot be a hero. He’s just out to save his own skin and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure his own survival.

Mui is one of the big characters and I guess you can argue that he’s the big villain of the film. He can fight as seen when he beat Naruto up when they had a quick sparring match. We don’t get to see a whole lot more than that from him, but his curse styled ninjutsu is very powerful. I don’t see him lasting long against one of the stronger characters, but a weakened Naruto is right up his ally. (According to this film) I can’t say that I like him a whole lot though and his character development is good…except for his origin. The origin just doesn’t fit in and he must have been pretty crazy to allow it to be so. He’s changed his thought processes on this, but there’s still no excuse for falling for something like that in the first place. He has a pretty cool voice in the English dub, which helps his character a little.

Naruto is the main character as expected and I’m glad to say that his character portrayal is basically spot on. He looks very good and this is probably the best that he has looked…since the last film. That may not sound very impressive, but it’s just that the films have been Reeeeeeeally good at making Naruto a likable hero. He may be better in the films than in the normal show although I like him there a lot too. He has his good and bad moments in the show while the film is really just about his good moments. He’s a pretty selfless hero who always wants to do the right thing and he refuses to cross the line. That’s the kind of hero that you want to follow. My only qualm with his portrayal is probably that he looks a little too weak.

Naruto should have easily crushed Mui. Naruto may have had to fight without chakra, but he’s still a very experienced fighter and I would expect him to have the upper hand in a fight. I also like to think that Naruto would have been able to have enough chakra to overpower the jutsu since he has the Nine Tailed Fox inside of him. We’ve seen time and time again that few things can really hope to overpower such a beast. Naruto’s brief escape at the beginning was also a little sad and he should have broken through the current. As you can see, I wasn’t pleased with the depiction of his power level for most of the film, but they had to nerf him or the whole thing would have been over in an instant. Bleach and DBZ never nerf their main characters, but I guess they were able to think of a main villain who could fight while keeping it believable. Naruto’s writers may have feared the power of the plot holes.

Ryuzetsu is the mysterious ninja who turns out to be a lady. Only Naruto is surprised at this twist since it’s fairly obvious in the Dub (The Sub as well since the character design looks female from the get go. It’s anime so you can never be too sure, but I still would have assumed that Ryuzetsu was a she) thanks to the voice. She has a role to play in all of this because there is a sub plot that is completely unnecessary about a sub faction called the Flowers. They don’t like what is happening at this prison and they’re going to put a stop to it. You don’t have to remember that though since it has absolutely no bearing on the plot. She’s a pretty nice person and she is also a very talented swimmer. When it comes down to a battle she’s decent, but she doesn’t seem to have any real special abilities. I guess she just didn’t get a chance to use them, but that would have been nice. As far as filler heroes go, she’s a marked improvement over the norm.

Muku is voiced by the same guy who voices Kirito and Rin so that was pretty awesome. His brief moments in the sob story are pretty intense because of this. Aside from that, I sill don’t care for him. At one point, he got my hopes really high because I thought that I was about to get the big fight scene that I had been waiting for. Unfortunately, it was just a red herring and I slumped back in my seat. He’s tough and a genius like Sasuke, but we don’t get a chance to really see that. I don’t think that we will ever forget Muku, but he’s just one of those guys who cracked and lost his shot at being a true hero.

There was a pretty pointless character who had the ability to transform into many people. He was probably only needed for the framing scene and even the writers seemed to have forgotten that he was around. A classic example of this is when the 6 members of the Zodiac animal mask wearing villains have a meeting. They discuss how it will take all of them teaming up to take him down and they’ll only manage it because of the shapeshifter’s weakness. The battle occurs and it takes one of the members a split second to win the battle. I thought this bald guy was supposed to be a threat? The whole scene just made you wince since the villains have paralysis techniques that are so powerful that nobody can break through them. Even Naruto is instantly ensnared by the technique. The villains are pretty cheap though and they never actually get a real fight scene so they are thrown by the wayside.

I also thought that the ending was extremely abrupt. There’s a “true” ending if you stick around long enough, but the screen just fading to black and Naruto seeming pretty emotionless is not exactly how you captivate an audience. It’s a decently emotional scene (Or as emotional as you can get for a character that you didn’t even know for 100 minutes) so you would expect Naruto to put up more of a fight. At least a “nooooooo” type of scene would have helped there. Once again, it also made the Leaf look pretty bad since you could tell that they really didn’t care that much. It was just a casualty of war after all. That’s how they seemed to think of it instead of owning up to the fact that none of this would have happened if the Leaf Shinobi had arrived sooner.

The plot twist about the villain’s ability is also pretty bad. It’s the worst possible way that they could have explained it. Why not just make him a telepath? Instead, he reads the heroes’ fear and that’s how he follows their movements. At the end, Naruto stops fearing the unknown so the villain can’t track him anymore. Are we really supposed to believe that Kakashi and Killer Bee were scared when they joined the fray? I don’t believe that for a second and neither would Maka. Fear powers are fun when they are used correctly, but that is difficult which is why few authors even bother to give it a whirl. It’s nice to see a big villain with this ability, but it was handled very poorly. The heroes were not given a reason to fear the monster and Naruto didn’t seem to be scared at all initially. That was just sloppy writing in the end.

As a final thought, I think that the series needs to stop hyping up Gamabunta. Haven’t we already confirmed that he’s infinitely weaker than Naruto at this point? I don’t think Naruto should have summoned him at all since he should be a liability at this point. There’s no good reason why he can keep up with the heroes anymore aside from the fact that he’s a fan favorite character. He was good in the old days when the Legendary Sannin were considered to be a threat, but those days are over. It’s why nobody summons animals unless they are desperate anymore. Naruto needs to follow suit.

Overall, Blood Prison is a solid film despite how negative the review seems. I will admit that I was pretty disappointed with the film, but not as much so as I was with Battle of Gods. (Pro tip, Do Not watch the trailer or you’ll get the wrong idea for either one of these films) I probably would have liked Blood Prison a little more if I had not seen the trailer, but I would still be disappointed with the lack of action. Blood Prison is probably the weakest installment in the Shippuden series. The only one that may be worse is Bonds and that one may actually have the slight edge over this one. (I’ll have to rewatch it again at some point. I remember not liking it much and the final fight was short, but the opponent was still a buff humanoid so there’s always that) It has its faults to be sure, but Blood Prison’s action scenes are still good when they happen and Naruto’s portrayal is spot on. The animation and soundtrack are good enough to keep the film afloat as well. The film drags on a little during the early prison scenes and the whole thing is rather unnecessary, but it gets more interesting once the monster appears. I recommend this title if you’re looking for an old school ninja film or if you just want to see some monster action. Just be warned that this film barely qualifies as an action since we don’t get a real fight scene until the end. It’s better to just call it a mystery. Go into the film expecting that and you should be pleased.

Overall 7/10

Sailor Moon vs Sakura

In preparation for the Sailor Moon review that will be appearing on the blog soon, it’s time for a Sailor Moon match! She is one of the legendary protectors of the galaxy and her power is feared across the cosmos! She is known to be very powerful and a match for Goku. While I don’t think that she could take him on, she’s still tougher than you may expect. That being said, Sakura has grown very powerful over the years and she definitely has the edge in speed and power. Those are two very important areas in a battle and that should lead her to victory. Sakura wins.

Tsubasa Spring Thunder Review

It’s time to review the second Tsubasa OVA, which is also the final one to ever be created. For better or worse, the franchise ended (On TV anyway) with this installment so does it provide us with a lot of closure and such? No….not quite. Luckily, this turns out well for us in the sense that it is basically nonstop action. This OVA raises the stakes from the last one and we have less exposition so more time for fights. As you can tell, this one easily defeated the last OVA!

The plot continues after the heroes saved Fai from the sorcerer….is that really how the last OVA ended? Wellllll…maybe not, but they assume that you guys read the manga so it’s okay to jump a lot! Kurogane loses his arm and someone goes to get him a replacement when an old foe appears. Remember Seishiro, Syaoran’s mentor? Well, he’s back to keep on searching for the vampire twins and he also decides to intimidate the heroes as a consolation prize. Syaoran isn’t having any of that and he attack the man. He shall get the feather at any cost! Unbeknownst to the heroes..the other Syaoran also approaches! (The original Syaoran who was with us for the whole series before turning evil…that Syaoran)

Now, this OVA can be a little cruel to longtime fans of the series who didn’t read the manga since it skips a whole bunch of story arcs while including flashbacks that reference them. It’s an intriguing strategy and one that many will not really appreciate. It’s probably a lot more fun if you’ve never seen Tsubasa before since it’ll be a mystery. (I said something similar for the last OVA) Starting off with the heroes escaping from a dying world after murdering the magician who had been hyped as one of the ultimate villains since the very first episode is rather anticlimatic as well. I’d be pretty disheartened if Frieza or Aizen had been taken out off screen like that. We also don’t really hear the plot twist about Fai’s name. (Tsubasa loves its name twists…..just wait for Kurogane’s!)

So, the continuity of this OVA is definitely a little dicey, but if you read the manga everything will still make a lot of sense. At first, I was pretty skeptical about Kurogane losing his arm since it seemed to be counterproductive at the time. It would just reduce his chances of escape right? Luckily, we just find out that he had to sacrifice his arm to save Fai and escape. (Fai’s always getting rescued now and that’s a trend that won’t end anytime soon) Tsubasa saved itself from that small stumble.

This OVA is only two episodes so it’s extremely short. Luckily, it tries to make up for this with all of the action and its a winning strategy. The first episode mainly deals with Syaoran’s fight against Seishiro and it’s nice to see how Syaoran’s improved since their last encounter. (Different Syaoran, but same fighting techniques) However, Syaoran has not improved nearly as much as you would have thought and he’s still losing pretty badly in this fight. I love his determination, but it’s disappointing to see him so outmatched here. Things get even dicier for him in the second episode since he goes up against Dark Syaoran. (I’m going to just say Dark before his name to make it easier to tell them apart) Dark Syaoran is much stronger than Seishiro in my opinion although I’m sure that many would disagree on that. Syaoran puts up a brave fight, but I seriously don’t see him posing much of a threat for the experienced villain. The fight scene is fun and it’s nice to see the contrast of fire vs thunder.

I definitely enjoyed the action scenes in this OVA more than the last one’s. They weren’t rushing and the fights were allowed to really develop. The energy attacks from Seishiro’s blade as well as the two Syaorans also helped since energy attacks tend to look pretty great when they’re used in such a high budget OVA. One area where this OVA lost to the last one is the theme song. The last one was lacking in images, but the overall atmosphere helped it and the green circle was ominous. There really isn’t anything redeeming in this opening and it’s just very boring. I don’t know what happened, but it feels like it was created as an afterthought. There’s no action scenes or anything and it just shows all of the characters a bunch of times. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z has openings over 20 years ago that were better than these. There’s no excuse for a bad opening these days since so many anime produce great ones every year!

Aside from the opening, the soundtrack is pretty good. Naturally, most of the selections are from the show so they are tried and true. They never get old and it’s very well rounded. I’m pretty sure that my favorite theme didn’t play this time, but I suppose that it can’t make the cut every time. (Even though it is the best theme….)

I would almost say that Syaoran is a 5 star protagonist in this OVA. (5 out of 5 of course) However, there is one scene that holds him back and it is near the beginning. Seishiro starts to intimidate the heroes and he beats up on Fai for a while…and nobody helps. This is actually worse for Kurogane (Since he does nothing, but Syaoran should have done something. Syaoran does challenge Seishiro to a match, but it’s only because he wants the feather. He seemed to not care about what was happening to Fai, which was pretty out of character. Aside from that brief moment, Syaoran was basically perfect.

At this point, Sakura is basically avoiding him (As seen in a new flashback) so he is basically alone. He’s still intent on getting the feathers so that Sakura can have her memories back, but he’s going to have the short end of the stick either way. He’s still very resolute in this decision and he’ll face anyone to get the feathers. He never backs down and Syaoran is just a great hero. He’s certainly more heroic than your average fighter and he doesn’t even need any comic relief scenes to balance his personality out. He’s completely serious and stone faced the entire OVA and it works for his character.

Dark Syaoran mainly appears for the second episode, but he does get a pretty epic cliffhanger for the first episode. He definitely means business and to be honest…I’m basically rooting for him. I try to root for both Syaorans equally, but Dark Syaoran is technically the character that I’m more used too and if you didn’t see the last OVA, you wouldn’t know just how evil he is. From this perspective, he seems more like an anti-hero, although a strong case can be made that he’s the villain since he’s willing to destroy the other Syaoran. Regardless, his goal is to help Sakura get her feathers back and the main difference is that he doesn’t take no for an answer. His design is epic and you can tell that he’s more on the dark side than the regular Syaoran. Dark Syaoran definitely helped the series excel to new heights!
Sakura is a lot better here than in the last OVA. She is typically awake…well, she’s awake inside of her dream anyway. It’s an interesting moment since she has a meta conversation with Watanuki and it’s all very deep. (Literally since they’re basically underwater) It can be a little upsetting to see her avoid Syaoran, but we do find out the reason for it at the very end and it’s explained more at the end of the manga. It makes sense to an extent since we wouldn’t want Syaoran to get any false hopes. Her final moment is not that great though since it’s something that we’ve seen a lot of characters do in the past and it’s always a clock stopper. (Not in a good way…I want my action scenes to keep on going!) She doesn’t fight in this OVA, but we can always hope that she’ll grab her gun and take on a villain someday.

As mentioned earlier, Kurogane looks really bad here. Not only does he freeze up when Fai is attacked, but he has been reduced to sitting on the sideline for all of the battles. Gone are the days when he was a big fighter. (He does get a big fight soon, but it is not animated at this point in time) He does have some scenes with the princess where we find out new twists and such, but it’s not really going to help him rise up the ranks. I like him as a character, but I just didn’t care for him here. Just counting this OVA and not the previous one + TV show, Kurogane just wouldn’t be that great.

Although, Kurogane would still be better than Fai. Now that Fai is basically powerless, he’s really no help to the team. He tags along and gets beat up by the enemies, but that’s about it. We know that he’s a very good hand to hand fighter from the TV show…unless he was just amping up his abilities with magic. Still, I would expect him to do better and I’m sure that he would have some good moments in the future. This OVA just happens to take place at a time where he doesn’t really have a role to speak of. It’s a sad time for him and Kurogane.

It’s good to see Seishiro appear after being gone for so long. He’s easily one of the best characters in the franchise and his character is still a mystery. He seems to have joined the side of the heroes in this OVA sine he’s a lot friendlier then he once was, but you still have to question his goal. What will he do with the vampires once he finds them? It’s too bad that Seishiro won’t stick around to help since he could definitely do a lot of good. He may be the strongest hero at the moment and that’s saying something! I guess he’ll just have to let the main characters do their thing, but it would have been nice if he had stayed with the party.

The tone of this OVA is a little more like the show. There are still a lot of twists, but it’s a little lighter. The stakes haven’t gone down, but these two episodes feel like they could have been in the animated series. Maybe the director changed or it’s just a coincidence in the story. The Kamui arc was likely darker in the manga as well. This one had more nostalgia for me in that sense and that’s always a nice plus.

The ending may be more than a little dicey for Tsubasa fans and for those who just picked this OVA up on the fly. The ending gives us a huge cliffhanger with the heroes deciding to take out the main villain once and for all as they make another dimension jump. After all of the adventures, we are finally at the final battle! Only to find out that the series was not going to be continued and that you would have to read the manga and try to decipher the fight scenes to see it! On one hand, it’s not cool since you’ll never see the ending, but I do have to admit that I’m a sucker for a good cliffhanger. That type of ending really makes me jump on the hype train! It’s just so intense and it’s one of the ultimate cliffhangers! (Another example of an ultimate cliffhanger is Goku finally arriving to his allies’ aid against Frieza or Sasuke preparing to fight Gaara after some intense training. Shonen Jump is full of these scenes and it’s one of the reasons why they are awesome!)

Overall, Tsubasa definitely ended on a high note with this OVA! It’s a mixed bag since it doesn’t really tie up most of the loose ends and it doesn’t really end, but it was still a very fun ride. We had a lot of action and the soundtrack/animation will hold up very well for many years. Bringing back Seishiro and Dark Syaoran was a good way to bring in most of the villains and Fei Wong got his little cameo. Kurogane and Fai looked really underwhelming and this is their last animated appearance to that could be a little disheartening to their fans. (Not quite as bad as being a fan of the evil sorcerer though…) I definitely recommend this OVA to Tsubasa fans and to anyone who enjoys a nice anime fight! It doesn’t really have any negative qualities and it fixes the mild issues that I had with the first OVA. (I’ll miss the Angelic Layer crossover from the manga, but I suppose that this was how it had to be. Hopefully it’ll get animated someday) This is something that you’ll be glad you saw!

Overall 8/10

Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations Review

I watched the Tsubasa show pretty recently (Or it feels recent anyway) and it was an enjoyable watch. It was a great adaption of the manga and I dare say that it was more interesting except for the fact that it didn’t cover the second half of the series. The half of the series where the action really kicked into high gear and the part where I became a fan of the series. Well, this OVA covers the Kamui arc, which was my favorite volume of the series. It helps that this is the first part of the story where I really began to enjoy the series. Let’s see if it has the same effect on the animated adaption!

The OVA is three episodes long so it’s actually still shorter than your average theater film and it may be a little longer than your average animated film. This story takes place immediately after the library battle so the filler from the TV show has been ignored for the sake of the canon plot. The heroes arrive in a land where it is always raining acid and the world’s inhabitants have all been destroyed except for a handful of people. They have divided into two groups who protect their supply of water as they try to survive. Both groups don’t like each other and the heroes bump into a group that’s led by a vampire named Kamui. Syaoran needs to find the feather that is in this island, but what if it means extinction for the poor inhabitants of the city? Meanwhile, the Syaoran who has been trapped in the water tomb finally awakens and Sakura has to go on a solo adventure.

A lot of things definitely happen in this OVA so hopefully you are prepared for a fast paced journey. Right away, you’ll likely be able to tell that the animation is much different from the show and the tone has shifted as well. This one is a lot darker and it’ll be tough for you to locate any cheerful moments. (Whereas the anime had those in spades) Of course, we do get plenty of action scenes, which is always a solid consolation prize!

The soundtrack is pretty good and you should recognize most of the tunes from the anime. My favorite opera theme only appears once, but that’ll have to do. The rest of the themes are pretty good and while Tsubasa doesn’t end up having anything that will become iconic, the overall soundtrack is well above average. The theme song is intriguing since nothing really happens and we just see a glowing object. I think it works really well for a theatrical experience since it would slowly build up the hype for you. It definitely would have been more fun to look at if there were fights and fun images in the song, but this was still pretty good. For me, it’s a natural hype builder.

The animation is solid and I supposed it’ll be based on your personal preferences on whether you think it beats the show’s animation or not. I think the animation here is more fluid, but the fight scenes may have been a little hurt by this. It’s hard to describe, but the action scenes aren’t really fleshed out as much as they could be. The characters are fighting and yet, not much is happening. Either the screen will cut away or they’ll only have time for a few blows to be exchanged. (The next OVA is better in this area) This OVA really only has two fights. Kamui vs Syaoran and Syaoran vs Syaoran. Both fights are very short though, which could also be why I wasn’t very impressed with them. Good action scenes take time and the OVA covered so much that they breezed through them. Sakura fights with giant monsters, but I can’t say that it’s much of a consolation prize this time.

Syaoran is the protagonist that we all remember, but his personality quickly changes as the OVA goes on. He starts out as the happy camper that we’ve come to expect and by the end you can only call him a hero who has strayed from the path and turned into the villain. He wants to get the feathers at any cost and that cost may now include murder. (Of course, he did risk the lives of everyone in the village to get a feather in the TV show so…) One can argue that the change is beyond his control since a soul is taken from him, but he still has his soul so I like to think that he can control it. He still has his memories and everything so this was basically his decision. It’s intriguing, but I would say that he is my favorite villain in the series. He gets a pretty huge power up to coincide with the trope that a hero who turns evil gains great power.

The mysterious Syaoran in the container wakes up and he gets a role in this OVA. He uses a mixture of sword techniques and thunder abilities to contrast with the other Syaoran’s fire sword and spellcasting. He is similar to the original Syaoran, but he’s definitely more sullen. He’s not very cheerful and his thoughts always seem to keep him preoccupied. His arrival brought many questions along with it and it’ll be tough for the other heroes to get used to him being around. Which Syaoran is to be trusted right? All is explained in the OVA and they’ll continue to bring up more plot points as Tsubasa goes on.

Kurogane is really more of a non factor here. He proves that he can go up against Kamui in a fight and he’s definitely a skilled warrior, but he doesn’t really have a stake in the whole situation. He does get a lot of character development with Fai though since they have definitely become closer as allies. Fai still keeps his secrets, but it doesn’t stop Kurogane from making a dangerous decision to save his life. It’s also frustrating for Kurogane since he’s unable to help when the two Syaorans face off against each other. It wasn’t a great moment for him, but I’m sure that he’ll do better in future stories. He’s still a pretty good supporting character and he just needs a good power up to keep him in the helpful section of characters.

Fai doesn’t look very good in this OVA. He has a lot of power and he’s finally willing to use it to help the others, but he underestimates his opponent. This is a critical mistake and he ends up losing just about all of his power. He went from being immeasurably skilled to suddenly being the weakest member on the squad. Kurogane makes a deal to keep Fai alive, which also gives Fai some superhuman abilities, but it’s regrettable that the situation had to occur at all. I would have expected Fai to have put up a better fight. I definitely didn’t care for him in this collection, but I’m sure that he’ll do better in the next OVA. He just needs to learn how to fight in his new state and he’ll be set.

Sakura is mostly asleep or unconscious in this OVA due to circumstances that happened earlier. All of the clone drama and other twists have likely weakened her condition as well. She is unable to prevent the tragedy of the two Syaorans fighting and when she finally wakes up once again, Sakura is given a task. She must find a treasure and bring it back to the base so Yuko can grant a wish to help the heroes. This results in Sakura going on her own adventure to get past giant monsters and prove that she can help the team as well! It’s a noble gesture and Sakura is a good character although it would be great if she was conscious more often. Going on the trek by herself did grant the other heroes some much needed rest so it certainly helped.

Kamui quickly became one of my favorite characters in the manga so it was nice to see him appear in the OVA. He’s still one of the better characters although he may not be quite as high for me here as he originally was in the manga. He was just a little weaker than I remembered since he looks bad against the other squad of humans and his showing against Kurogane wasn’t great. He still pulls through when it counts, but Kamui wasn’t quite as awe inspiring as I had remembered. Still, his design is pretty good and he’s one of the few vampires that I actually like. Kamui is also pretty unreasonable to the other group. They just want to share resources to last longer in this world, but Kamui just wants to fight. Perhaps they did something in their series to make Kamui distrust them, but strictly speaking from a Tsubasa viewpoint, Kamui and his team seemed to be at fault. Kamui’s twin, Subaru, isn’t quite as memorable since he doesn’t really get to appear until the very end. He spends most of his time being trapped, which doesn’t help his case.

This OVA definitely takes place at an interesting time since there is really no conclusion. The animators likely should have just made this a 13 episode OVA to adapt everything since there isn’t a whole lot of time in 3 episodes. Still, it was good to see that Tsubasa’s popularity was still strong enough to get it this far. Viewers of the show may not appreciate how different the OVA is from the show, but this also occurred in the manga. The OVA isn’t very violent although one character does steal someone’s eye, which is definitely the most graphic part here. I never liked that kind of violence since attacks against the eye are rather sensitive. It’s just not the same as losing an arm or something like that. Still, it’s not very graphic and it’s just the thought that can be stomach churning. The OVA is certainly a lot more intense than the show, but likely nothing that you can’t handle if you’ve seen Naruto Shippuden or Bleach. The only other scene that may not be a lot of fun is the Sakura vs Giant Monster part. She has a gun so you can likely tell that the monsters are doomed. That part’s a little iffy since giant monsters are practically the same as animals at times so those scenes would be a little negative as well.
Overall, Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations is a pretty solid OVA. I think the adaption may have went more smoothly if they had kept going in the show format and I have to wonder how the scenes would have been altered to fit the show’s format. I’m sure that it would have been a little more cheerful and the fights would have been longer. So, in that sense, I still think the show was their best bet, but this OVA does a good job of continuing the series. The soundtrack and animation are very solid and the plot has definitely moved forward. We have been waiting for the Syaoran in the water tank to get out for so long that it’s refreshing to see him finally get out. There isn’t much of an ending and it’s basically a “To Be Continued” so it’s good that this OVA got a sequel. (Which I shall review shortly) This is a fun stand alone story that I could recommend to people who didn’t see the Tsubasa show as well as those who did. It’s pretty atmospheric after all and it’ll play out like a mystery if you didn’t see the show. We get a lot of references to other old villains and even Fei Wong makes a cameo as he takes down his assistant. Of course, every viewer can appreciate Mokona and all that he does for the team! The eye scene and giant monster violence are the only things that you may want to be on the lookout for as the rest is all clear sailing! (The next OVA has more action so get ready for epicness!)

Overall 7/10