Friday 31 May 2013

Manga review: Hiroaki Samura's Emerald And Other Stories

I've been reading a lot of ongoing series lately which don't lend themselves well to my usual rambling review style. This time I'll take a look at a collection of short stories from the creator of Blade Of The Immortal (Mugen No Juunin).

Samura Hiroaki's Emerald And Other Stories was originally released in Japanese as Sister Generator, and from the covers alone it would be difficult for anyone to recognise them as the same book. The English adaptation was published by Dark Horse on 26th February 2013 and should be available through all good online stores. A preview is available on the official website here.

The book is made up of six short stories with a handful of standalone illustrations of women in between drawn in Samura's distinctive style.

Dark Horse has chosen Emerald as the lead story and made the Wild West theme the subject of the cover illustration. This made me hesitate since it's not a genre I'm usually interested in - but only for a moment, as the artwork is too good to miss for such a superficial reason. It's a daring idea to market the book this way as manga with such a quintessentially American theme tends to be quite rare in the US; hopefully it will catch the eyes of some fans who want to try something a little different.

I'm glad that I didn't let my misgivings guide me as Emerald turned out to be an entertaining read. Perhaps it's because the short story has a different feel to a normal western movie, or maybe it's just because seeing a gunslinger who vaguely resembles Blade of the Immortal's Manji alongside a beautiful Hyakurin lookalike is appealing for other reasons. I still don't think I'm ready for a full length Wild West manga - it's not tempted me to rush out and order all of Gun Blaze West or Trigun. Samura's self-contained tale, however, will stay with me for a while.

Of the remaining stories, the haunting Brigitte's Dinner was my favourite. In the creator's notes about each manga, which are included at the end of the book, he reveals that Brigitte's Dinner had to be trimmed in length. It's noticeable; even with the cuts it remains a strong story, but without them it might have been amazing. The Kusein Family's Greatest Show was the other stand-out for me. It's unashamedly weird, flitting between genres several times within its brief 48 pages. It's also the most sensual manga in the book (a later story, Shizuru Cinema, starts off with some similar themes before taking a turn for the strange).

The other treats contained in this book are chapters from a schoolgirl gag manga titled The Uniforms Stay On. The dumb conversations between teenaged girls have become a popular topic for gag manga lately, only here those girls are drawn more realistically than usual and the topics extend to politics and news stories as well as the usual fare. Samura plays it straight and doesn't pander by making the girls sexier or cleverer than they need to be. They're sarcastic, overconfident, vain and whimsical - and fun to watch in spite of it all.

I found it odd that there's no obvious indication from the cover that this book isn't suitable for readers of all ages. Its questionable themes definitely place it in the 'mature' category and shrinkwrap isn't much of a deterrent.

Overall, I enjoyed Emerald And Other Stories very much. It's not the first of Samura Hiroaki's compilations to be published in English; that honour goes to Ohikkoshi back in 2006. With darker themes replacing Ohikkoshi's exploration of young love, I feel that Emerald And Other Stories is the stronger offering of the two and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of the artist or short stories in general.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

News roundup: Seiyuu to appear at Busho Matsuri? And a new collaboration

Rumour: More seiyuu to appear at Busho Matsuri?

A retracted update to an article on Capcom's Sengoku Basara news feed yesterday showed that seiyuu Seki Tomokazu (Ishida Mitsunari) and Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi) had been added as new guests for July's Busho Matsuri live event. A fan snapped a picture of the update before it was taken down so this rumour looks reliable - even though Capcom silently removed the information shortly after it was discovered.

Squinting at the picture, it looks as though both seiyuu were provisionally scheduled to appear on the first day, but in the evening performance rather than the noon one (which features the Sengoku Basara 4 updates and Ikeda Shuuichi). Perhaps there'll be a second presentation from KobaP in the evening, and perhaps he'll be revealing that Mitsunari and Hideyoshi will be part of the new game..?

Either way, the fact that Capcom prepared the announcement means they aren't surprise guests, so their presence may not mean much. It's weird to see more seiyuu guests added since the Busho Matsuri event has always been pitched at fans of the Butai Sengoku Basara stage plays.

Edit 30/05/2013: This has now been confirmed! Both seiyuu will appear in the evening show's Sengoku Basara 4 presentation.

Another mobile game crossover is announced

The other news from the past few days is that Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri will be featuring in a crossover with Kessen! Sengoku VS Sangokushi, another mobile game based on Japanese (and Chinese) history.

To celebrate the first anniversary of Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri, which is today, a collaboration event is running until the 25th June 2013. Playing Kessen! Sengoku VS Sangokushi during the event period will reward you with Yukimura and Oichi bonuses in the game.

Meanwhile, fans who play Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri while the event is running can earn cards featuring depictions of Date Masamune and Oichi from the other game.

Monday 27 May 2013

News roundup: The DVD version of Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage is now up for preorder

The Dais Shop has been updated as promised today with plenty of Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage merchandise. Included in the list is the DVD recording of the play, due for release in late September 2013. It will be available as a ¥6,000 standard edition or a ¥6,500 first press limited edition with a special photo booklet.

The limited editions tend to sell out quickly. Since it's the final show for some of the actors it should make for a good memento.

In the meantime, Amazon Japan, Amiami and Otaku Republic are listing a few of the Mame Sengoku Basara items I mentioned before. They seem to be carrying the clear bookmarks, card jackets and mugs. There's also a pair of ¥525 mouse pads with a choice of Tougun or Seigun designs.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Event: London MCM Expo/Comic Con (May 2013)

Clariecandy cosplaying
an adorable Yukimura
It's that time of the year again. Yesterday I went along to the biannual MCM Expo event known as London Comic Con. Last year's event fell during a heatwave so all of the cosplayers in heavy fur suits were sweltering in the sun; this time they had the choice between the stifling heat inside the London Excel convention centre or the rather pleasant weather outside the entrance.

After last October's relatively peaceful Sunday visit, my group opted to try Saturday again this time in the hope that the stalls would have more to offer. We obediently had our hands stamped for early entry then stood around waiting for a long time in a stationary queue, rummaging through the goody bags which were distributed - apparently at random - to people in the line by some stressed-looking staff. There was no communication and only a handful of attendees were given a chance to get a bag, so it's fortunate the contents were less than inspiring. I received the same dreadful free DVD that was in my goody bag back in October 2012, a promotional game DVD, a Wolverine poster and some leaflets. Oddly, there was no guide to the event itself this time.

I'd forgotten how busy things got on Saturdays; within a couple of hours of the doors opening, it's almost impossible to move around between stalls. There doesn't appear to be a good way to manage it. Either you arrive early and spend a long time standing around, or you arrive late and can't move around freely in the halls at all. It's worse than Comiket.

Once we'd managed to get into the London Comic Con we dashed between all of the booths I wanted to visit. First came the emaciated 'JapanEx' area, composed of half a dozen food shops specialising in Japanese food. There were also a couple of anime booths in the same area - or so I thought. Upon reaching Kaze UK's stand it was evident that they weren't actually exhibiting. The usual tables of French anime/J-pop CDs and imported goodies were gone.

News roundup: Stage play Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage wraps up

Today the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage stage play drew to an end with the final show in its run. A 'live viewing' was arranged to show a video stream from the event hall in participating cinemas across Japan, letting as many fans as possible watch the grand finale together. According to reports there were several curtain calls and the crowd gave a standing ovation at the end of the show.

This has been the final Butai Sengoku Basara stage play to star Kubota Yuuki and Hosogai Kei in the roles of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura so the main focus was their formal 'graduation'. It was also announced that there will be another stage play series starting in the autumn. KobaP said that it is going to be a new production, so I wonder what it will be about? I suppose they might do one themed around Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) if they didn't cover too much of the content in Utage. It would be a good excuse to get some of the Sengoku Basara 2 characters back into the cast (and tie in well if they were, say, planning on announcing that they'd be part of the next game).

I expect we'll hear more news soon, either tomorrow when the website next updates or at the upcoming Busho Matsuri event in mid-July. How will they ever find new actors who are good enough to replace the two leads?

The official website has confirmed that stage play goods will also be available from the Dais online store starting from tomorrow. I'm hoping this will mark the beginning of the online DVD preorder period.

Friday 24 May 2013

Anime review: The World God Only Knows II (Kami Nomi Zo Shiru Sekai II)

It's been a while since I watched the first series of The World God Only Knows. Based on a Shounen Sunday manga by Wakaki Tamiki, the series follows the conquests of an unpopular schoolboy who is forced into capturing the hearts of girls using the knowledge he's gained from his favourite games. It's effectively a 'monster of the week' harem series with a huge dose of self-aware parody.

The first series was something I enjoyed more than I'd expected, so I went into this 2011 sequel hoping for more of the same. I wasn't disappointed; these twelve new episodes are just as charming and fun to watch as the earlier ones were.

Season two was released by Sentai Filmworks on Blu-ray and DVD on 7th August 2012. I was pleased that the Blu-ray video was presented in 1080p this time as Sentai have a mixed track record when it comes to transfer quality. The sets come with a choice of an English language dub or the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. I didn't watch the dub; everything in this review relates to the Japanese soundtrack. Extras are limited to textless opening/ending sequences.

Since I never reviewed it separately, I should add that the first series is also available from Sentai as a Blu-ray or DVD complete collection. According to this forum post, there's an audio glitch on the first season Blu-ray set. I haven't noticed any problems with the second season set (if anything, it's above average for a Sentai Filmworks release).

When it comes to the content of the discs, what you get with The World God Only Knows is exactly what you'd expect from the simple summary above. The plot's formula is unashamedly politically incorrect without crossing the line and becoming offensive. There are some serious undertones here and there yet nothing bad ever really happens to anyone - even the characters who lie or pick on the main character, Keima, tend to get away with bruised feelings at worst.

Most episodes are grouped into short arcs focusing on Keima's conquest of a particular girl, though there are also a couple of standalone stories which a tiny insight into Keima and his hobbies for a change of pace. Despite playing off what is a very niche gaming genre in the west, I feel that the jokes still work even for people who don't pick up on the references. Having some knowledge of Japanese dating sims and the gaming subculture simply makes everything funnier.

Amidst the fantasy storyline and gags, there's a strange undercurrent which is almost inspirational. Most harem shows are designed to make the insecure viewer feel they have a chance with attractive women. In the World God Only Knows, that's replaced by a strategic look at how an unpopular guy can improve his chances and find success with almost anyone with some hard work and empathy. Perhaps I'm reading too much into things?

The single biggest strength of The World God Only Knows is probably that Keima himself is unusually likeable; it's a harem series with a main character who is interesting enough in his own right to carry the story through all kinds of twists and turns. Even when he's pursuing a girl I'm not all that keen on, Keima's mildly sociopathic (yet ultimately kind-hearted) personality makes the show addictive viewing. The scenes where he captures the heart of each girl only work because there's an underlying plausibility about his appeal, once his nerdy side is stripped away.

The comedy works too; although Keima is clearly well-qualified to be called the 'god' of conquering girls (both in his games and now in reality too), he's also an easy target for ridicule - which makes his bickering with Elsie and her unintentionally sarcastic-sounding praise even funnier.

Of course, a series about seducing girls is no good if the girls aren't cute as well, and for the most part they're adorable. The character designs are slick and attractive. To allow the main characters to make as many gaming references and jokes as possible, all of the girls conform to established dating sim stereotypes in various ways - which should make them come across as shallow, except it's so funny and well scripted that it works. Each 'conquest' is over within a few episodes so there's no chance of boredom.

In case the human girls aren't enough (and to allow for a more supernatural twist to the ongoing storyline), this second series introduces a second demon girl character, Haqua, whose more serious personality makes Elsie seem more dithery and sweet than ever.

The main reason that I watched The World God Only Knows II now was to prepare myself for the upcoming new television series titled The World God Only Knows Megami-hen. It's due to begin this summer. I'm hoping that Crunchyroll will manage to pick up the streaming rights for this charming show, otherwise I'll have to wait for Sentai Filmworks to get the third series out on Blu-ray before watching more! Until then, if you want to have a permanent copy of the earlier seasons which Crunchyroll is already showing then these sets come highly recommended.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

News roundup: Manga UK podcast reveals the Sengoku Basara anime sold terribly here

First of all, there's some minor news about the Sengoku Basara anime series in the UK via the local license holders, Manga UK. The series has had a rocky history here; the first series had an optimistic release as separate DVD and Blu-ray sets back when the latter format was still struggling to catch on, and as fans of the anime might know, the English-language releases have fewer extras on the DVD editions (most notably, some of the cute Mini Sengoku Basara shorts are missing). Although I bought a copy to show support and bullied half a dozen friends into giving the show a try, it seems that the first season sold poorly enough that at one point Manga UK's representatives were saying the second season of the anime wouldn't be coming over here at all.

Funimation in the US dutifully released a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack for the second season complete with chipboard box and preorder bonus, and for a while it looked as though fans in the UK would have to import. Until Manga UK abruptly changed their mind and released the second season as a barebones DVD-only collection - which I cannot recommend to anyone since once again, several of the charming Mini Sengoku Basara shorts aren't included. In spite of this I'd assumed that the theatrical movie Sengoku Basara -The Last Party- would make its way over to this country in due course to complete the series; films tend to sell better than television anime, after all.

However, the likelihood of the movie ever making an appearance here seems to have hit a major snag. There was an interesting segment on the most recent Manga UK podcast (#18) where a fan asked whether the company would be licensing any more shoujo or josei anime titles for distribution in the UK.

Manga UK representative Jerome struggled to think of any shoujo in the company's anime catalogue off the top of his head and eventually chose Sengoku Basara as his example. A rough transcript of the answer follows (if you want to check the full version, skip to 73:30 in the podcast linked above).

"Isn't Samurai Kings/Sengoku Basara josei? Because that's purely aimed at women in Japan and that's why it did so badly here (laughter). It's a male-centric action show which for all intents and purposes looks like shounen - but it has not connected with the audience in the UK at all. It's bizarre. The audience for Sengoku Basara in Japan is more mature women; it's weird. Apparently it's because they really like the eye candy, they like the male characters, they like... you know, the stuff. We bought it probably under the misconception that it was shounen and based on a Dynasty Warriors style video game with a lot of melee battles and action; and there is a lot of action in this show. It started to ring alarm bells when the licensors took me around an Animate store in Shibuya that caters primarily to female otaku, and Sengoku Basara was everywhere. It was the biggest... (JC: Mature female otaku are only 12% of the otaku audience, so that's immediately cutting out 88% right there.) Yeah, that's sad. So probably no; unless the show is really doing well in Japan, getting good simulcast numbers overseas and a fair bit of hype and it comes to our attention, then probably no, I'm really sorry - it just doesn't sell enough."

Well. Looking past the complete dismissal of the male fans the series seems to have overseas (and the number of female fans who buy shounen), I think Manga UK's release of the first season was one of their better quality productions  - they even timed it to coincide with the disastrous European release of Sengoku Basara 3 (Samurai Heroes). Perhaps they were simply expecting too much. Jerome started to say it hadn't connected with the "Naruto audience" before changing his wording, and if their hopes had been that high then it's no wonder that the Sengoku Basara anime ended up being a bitter disappointment in comparison. Nonetheless, it's a shame that the series sold so horribly and I'm surprised at the lack of interest from my fellow countrymen. What went wrong?

Anyway, on to some similarly unimportant news from Japan! Mobile game Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri is celebrating its first anniversary on 29th May 2013 with a series of in-game events.

Users who log in during the campaign's 'coundown period' between the 21st and 29th May 2013 will receive a SR Katakura Kojuurou card (pictured). Kojuurou often seems to be used for rewards when it comes to the Sengoku Basara mobile games - not that I'm complaining!

Once the countdown has finished, players are assured that there'll be more to look forward to with additional festivities until 4th June 2013.

Most mysteriously, there will be a new card created for the character who received the most votes in the in-game popularity vote which took place from 30th April to 8th May 2013. There'll also be various stat bonuses and a limited edition Date Masamune card to buy.

I want to see the results of the character poll most of all. The demographic of players who would vote in the mobile game is slightly different to usual, so there might be some weird surprises.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Anime review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure volume 3

I don't usually review anime titles volume-by-volume, but my rambling coverage of this one seems to be getting quite a few hits. I'd like to believe that means there are lots of fans overseas who are curious about the Japanese Blu-ray release for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, so here are my thoughts on disc three!

This third volume contains episodes seven through to nine of the 2012 television series, bringing the first part of the story to its close. The production quality is as high as ever; I cannot fault the artwork, animation quality or sound and the Blu-ray format presents the show the way it deserves to be seen. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is definitely one of the most worthy Japanese imports in recent memory.

The previous volume left off with the heroes battling against Dio's supernatural minions to try to stop a small town from being completely taken over. Even with JoJo's strength, Zeppeli's strange techniques and Speedwagon's, uh, cheering, the team have to make some dreadful sacrifices to make progress in their quest. The series continues to fly along at a brisk pace without ever skimping on battles, gore or shocks.

Sunday 19 May 2013

News: Sengoku Basara Official Fan Club ~Eiyuu No Kai~ to close down

I was very surprised to receive an email from the Sengoku Basara Official Fan Club ~Eiyuu No Kai~ last week which advised that the club is shutting down. I had been expecting a renewal message at some point since it was about the right time for one, so this came out of the blue!

It seems like a good opportunity for a short retrospective on the fan club and its first (and now, sadly, only) year of activity. It was obvious that there were plans to continue the club for a long time at the start since they'd listed the annual renewal fees as far back as when I first signed up. There were apparently some internal issues with running the club effectively, but I can only speculate that the relaunch of Capcom's electronic newsletter coupled with Sengoku Basara Magazine meant that it would have been increasingly difficult to spread exclusive content between all of the different portals vying for information. It's fortunate that they held back the decision on closing the club until after Sengoku Basara 4 had been announced - if the email had come a few months earlier, many fans would have assumed that the series was finished for good.

So what did the club actually do?

Saturday 18 May 2013

Event preview: London Comic Con MCM Expo (May 2013)

Next weekend on the 24th to the 26th May 2013, London Comic Con (also known as MCM Expo) will return to the London Excel exhibition centre for three days of merchandise, celebrities and stage events. They've finally released their programme online today so I've taken a quick look through it to pull out the most interesting attractions from my perspective. The ebook tool they use for the programme makes my main browser slow to a crawl.

With little interest in trendy television shows, Hollywood movies, cosplay or games, what I'm mostly interested in is news and information relating to anime, manga or Japan. In this post I'll summarise what seems to be on offer.

MangaUK were the first to post their plans and they have a two-page spread in the programme as a reminder. There'll be the usual discounts, special bundles and early releases at their booth #510 right in the middle of the hall. Exclusives will be a One Piece tote bag (limited to 300 customers) and a separate DVD release for the Highschool Of The Dead OAV, which isn't otherwise available separately. There'll be a prize draw to tempt customers into parting with some of their money.

Newcomers Anime Limited will also be at the event for the first time at booth #1003. They're off to a strong start by bringing famous anime director Watanabe Shinichirou - director of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo and Kids On The Slope - along with them to help promote their big debut. Anime Limited's first release will of course be Cowboy Bebop, due for release in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD starting in July. Signings will be taking place at their stand. Fans who have somehow stumbled upon this blog entry without knowing anything about Watanabe or his work should check out the three-page special feature in the online Expo programme.

Kaze have a small stand and no apparent marketing campaign around it - or is it shared with the Anime Limited stand? I can't read the number. It stands to reason that they'll be selling their DVD releases, possibly accompanied by some pretty trinkets from France and Japan to give fans an extra reason to check them out. Any actual news from Kaze is probably coming via Anime Limited or Manga UK.

I haven't seen any information from MVM Entertainment about their London Comic Con plans, other than confirmation that they'll be in attendance. Tony will be on stage for the industry panels, and no doubt they'll be offering special deals on their popular shows at their stand in the exhibition hall too.

The exception to my disinterest in the UK gaming industry is the Tecmo-Koei Europe stand. July's Dynasty Warriors 8 (Shin Sangoku Musou 7) will be playable at the show; I've got my fingers crossed that they'll have some merchandise on sale to tide me over until the release date.

Alternative 'warriors' title One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 is going to be present as well, presumably on the Bandai Namco stand. Capcom have a presence at the event but they have a habit of pretending any titles other than their current big hits don't exist. I'm not expecting any Sengoku Basara goodies from them.

Last of all, the old JapanEx event has been relegated to its tiny corner of the convention hall. It gets hardly any promotion. The stalls should be selling some tasty Japanese nibbles and souvenirs as usual.

I skimmed through the guest list on the London Comic Con website but didn't recognise anyone at all other than Watanabe. Not too surprising given the narrow scope of my interests.

It looks as though the stage schedule fares a little better; here are the highlights from the main stage timetable:


15:00 - Kids On The Slope screening with a Q&A with series director Watanabe Shinichirou

This looks interesting! It's good promotion for MVM Entertainment too who will be releasing the complete Kids On The Slope series on Blu-ray and DVD next month.


11:30 Anime Industry Panel and Manga Podcast

The usual spokespeople for the UK anime industry will be on stage to run through some announcements: Jerome Mazandarani (Manga UK), Tony Allen (MVM Entertainment) and Andrew Partridge (Anime Limited). They've only been allocated half an hour, though; will that be enough time?

12:00 Watanabe Shinichirou Q&A

A second chance for audience members to ask Watanabe some questions. I hope the room is packed so he can see how popular his work is in the UK.

16:00 EuroCosplay Championship Qualifiers

The cream of the cosplay crop should be assembling on stage to vie for a position in the EuroCosplay competition. It might be fun, especially if people perform lively skits.


11:30 Anime Industry Panel and Manga Podcast

Exactly the same as Saturday's panel. I guess they might be dealing with the short timeslots by spreading their announcements across the weekend.

15:00 Masquerade

The finale of the weekend's stage events is the traditional Masquerade. It's probably fun to watch for the spectacle alone.

Finally, because I don't plan on rummaging through the ebook each time I want to check something, here's the floor map as a blurry composited image (I'll replace it if they release a better version themselves).

Of the booths listed, I'm most likely to visit the Japan Quarter area, United Publications, Otaku and the industry booths. Making out the corporate logos on the map is quite difficult. It's disappointing to see a fair number of well-known bootleg sellers still present this time around. It may be worth making a record this time of which stalls are trustworthy - the London Expo group don't take any responsibility for booths selling illegal imitation goods, so buyers need to exercise caution!

Friday 17 May 2013

Travel report: Sengoku Basara tourism part 3 - Sendai and the legacy of Date Masamune

Photo taken at Zuihouden Mausoleum, Sendai
Note: This post follows directly on from part 2. If you haven't read that one already, please check it out first as I refer back to it for some explanations.

If the city of Shiroishi in Miyagi prefecture is all about Katakura Kojuurou, then the region's capital of Sendai is passionately devoted to Date Masamune. The real life Masamune founded the city in his domain more than four hundred years ago; since then it's grown into a busy urban hub and tourist destination, full of relics from the Sengoku period.

As soon as you step out of the train at Sendai station, you're met by endless references to the celebrated city founder and Musubimaru, the riceball-shaped regional mascot whose design includes nods to Masamune's famous armour. A beautiful stained glass window depicting the historical Date Masamune keeps watch over the station lobby.

And it's likely that you'll also come across the occasional Sengoku Basara poster in between the more traditional ones.

A poster for the Masamune-kou Matsuri

Thursday 16 May 2013

Two new anime streaming sites launch: Anime Sols and Daisuki

This past week has been tremendously exciting for western anime fans, with the launch of two brand new streaming websites. Both sites have taken completely different approaches to the inherent challenges in providing legal sources of anime online, and both have left me with very mixed feelings already.

Here are my completely biased personal opinions following the launch of the Anime Sols and Daisuki services.

Anime Sols is unusual even in the world of overseas anime streaming; rather than focusing on simulcasts, it's dedicated to streaming forgotten classics. Most interestingly it combines traditional streaming with a pledge system - like the system used on Kickstarter. Fans can pledge money for the series they like the most and any series which receives enough support by the deadline will receive a US (R1) DVD release with English subtitles.

In terms of strategy, Anime Sols is an absolutely brilliant idea. Customers can try the shows before deciding to pledge, cutting out the risk of supporting something they won't like and catering for both fans of streaming physical releases. It's also completely transparent about the realities of organising a physical release for a niche title - empowering hardcore fans of particular shows to support them in a way that's never been done before. Samuel Pinansky, the fan who put Anime Sols together as a labour of love, has been extremely responsive to questions so that he can take the feedback straight to the Japanese rights holders. I have nothing but praise for the way the site is being run.

And yet, I want it to fail.

That doesn't mean I have a personal grudge against Anime Sols or old anime series in general. The site is streaming several shows I'd dearly like to own on DVD and I appreciate the effort that has gone into creating something truly innovative for the community. My problem is that only people living in the US or Canada are allowed to participate in Anime Sols. Foreigners are not only barred from watching the streaming anime at all, they can't even pledge money or earn the rewards offered as incentives. It's not all bad news; the site owner has confirmed that foreigners should at least be able to buy the DVD releases if any of the projects reach their targets - we just can't help make that happen.

I want Anime Sols to fail in its current incarnation for one reason alone: it makes me feel utterly, utterly powerless as a fan. The reasons for the blanket ban on foreign users are complicated, apparently rooted in rights issues where older series have been licensed to companies on terms which wouldn't ever be allowed today. I imagine it's similar to the infamous problems with Harmony Gold and the Macross series. This situation is the fault of the rights holders and their international partners and there's nothing overseas fans or third parties can do about it. Even knowing this, however, doesn't make me feel any better about tolerating such a rotten state of affairs. Websites which go as far as blocking international IPs to break the world up into arbitrary geographical regions make the anime industry weaker.

So please, Americans, enjoy Anime Sols and continue to sponsor physical releases for the best shows. Once again, the millions of English-speaking fans outside your region are completely dependent on your generosity - and believe me, we don't want it to be this way either. I will be the first in line to sing the site's praises if the aggressive region locking issues can be addressed in future.


I wrote a long ramble about Daisuki when the project was first announced so I've been eagerly anticipating the site's debut. The approach that the creators of Daisuki have taken seems to be to provide a legal anime portal where fans can watch anything they like without giving up and resorting to illegal sources, while supporting the series through ads and merchandise sales in the attached store. It will obviously take some time before that ambition can be fully realised, but how are they doing so far?

After a two-week delay from its original April date, Daisuki launched this morning with a quirky selection of titles: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sword Art Online, Lupin III, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, Mobile Suit Z Gundam and a series of Prince of Tennis OAVs. Frustratingly only the last three titles are available in the UK. That's just half of their catalogue; disappointing for a global website which is supposed to be reducing the perceived 'need' for piracy among anime fans. Because Madoka Magica and Sword Art Online are newer and more marketable, the site's design uses these series for most of their promotional art even though foreign customers aren't allowed to see the videos.

It's a dreadful shame that Daisuki hasn't been able to solve the problem of certain series being restricted to the US market. Two of the three locked shows come from Aniplex - not Aniplex USA, but the Japanese side. It's a strange situation as the simulcast for Sword Art Online was available to the UK on Crunchyroll. I can't be sure without confirmation from users in other regions, but could it be possible that Sword Art Online has been licensed by a UK company and they've demanded exclusive streaming rights for the region too? That would certainly explain why Puella Magi Madoka Magica is not streaming to us as Manga UK licensed it for home video. If so, my feelings of disappointment extend to Manga UK as well (and to the mystery SAO licensee).

With regards to Lupin III, I don't understand what TMS has against the vast English-speaking world outside America, and I doubt I ever will.

It would be interesting (not to mention helpful) if clicking links to the unavailable shows would take foreign users to the local licensor's company website so that they can watch the series elsewhere or provide the local company with feedback about the lack of a viable streaming industry in their country. This would make Daisuki a useful resource rather than a visible reminder of how fans outside America are often overlooked.

Of the three series available to the UK, I have two of them on home video already and the third is an OAV spin-off for a television series we never got to see here. There's clearly some work to be done before Daisuki is going to be a website I visit regularly for my anime streaming needs.

Looking at things more positively, there's a lot of promise in Daisuki's website design. The video player seems to work well and I was able to watch an episode of Prince of Tennis this morning without any obvious problems. The videos come with an option to toggle the English subtitles off, and it looks as though there's room to add additional languages in future if there's enough demand. They've included a Japanese-style giveaway campaign to attract new customers (the prizes are pretty good), and there's a survey which users can fill in to vote for shows they want to watch on the site. I also like the general aesthetics of the website and the abundance of information that's available in the help section. The store doesn't seem to be online yet.

While fans in the US have been complaining that the titles available for streaming are already present on other websites, I see this as a promising step. Exclusivity is the biggest hurdle to legal streaming after region locking; in the long run, fans don't want to have to pay multiple subscription fees to be able to watch their favourite anime on a bunch of different websites with exclusive content. Getting as many series as possible onto every legal platform can only be beneficial, theoretically preventing companies like FUNimation from sitting on rights in the one region and ruining things for everyone else.

I can't help but notice that One Piece has apparently disappeared from the list of titles since the original press release, instead relegated to a 'Coming Soon' box on the Toei Animation Studio page. With Manga UK now holding the UK rights (and no doubt planning to put it on iTunes and Netflix one day in line with their glacial DVD release schedule), I'm gravely concerned that when it finally makes its appearance on Daisuki, One Piece is going to be locked away from the UK as well. The struggles of streaming - and the assumptions I make in the absence of communication - make me resent the existence of our half-hearted UK anime licensees more than ever before. I would love for there to be more engagement from the UK anime companies to stop this happening - in the absence of that, I'd prefer that Japanese licensors stopped giving UK distributors exclusive streaming rights at all. They are wasting so many opportunities to attract fans away from piracy this way.

As Daisuki does cater for the UK (in a limited way), it's earned a spot in my very exclusive list of recommended links. It's got almost as many series as the lacklustre UK streaming portal Anime On Demand, after all! Let's hope they are able to respond to user feedback swiftly and turn the site into something all anime fans can be proud to use.

Update 17/05/2013: It seems that someone at Daisuki has heard our cries, as Aniplex have unlocked both of their series for UK streaming leaving only content from TMS restricted to the US. I'd be extremely interested to know whether Aniplex's shows (Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Sword Art Online) are now available worldwide outside Japan, or whether they're still limited to certain areas.

This is a big step in the right direction and I have my fingers crossed that TMS will follow suit. More information about which shows are available in particular regions (like that provided by Crunchyroll when they announce new acquisitions) would be very helpful for those of us who travel or have friends overseas.

Travel report: Sengoku Basara tourism part 2 - Shiroishi Castle

The second part of my travel report is all about Shiroishi Castle. There are a lot of pictures this time. I'm delighted that I managed to get it finished in time to post it on 'Kojuurou Day' (2013/5/16 - a goroawase play on words).

The original reason for this particular trip was a shallow one: I'd bought the Sengoku Basara Travel Navi CD for the Oushuu area and the two seiyuu spoke so affectionately about their experiences in the city of Shiroishi that I became fascinated with the idea of going there myself. Travel Navi CDs are also available for Ueda, Osaka/Gifu and Sekigahara, if you're a fan who needs further convincing to pay one of those areas a visit.

I like historical sites anyway and the Sengoku Basara link added an interesting twist, so last summer I hopped on the Shinkansen to Miyagi prefecture and went to go and see the area for myself. Unfortunately the most prominent of Shiroishi's local attractions, Shiroishi Castle, had suffered significant damage from the terrible Touhoku earthquake which hit the region in 2011. I couldn't change the dates of my planned holiday even though the castle's website had explained the situation in advance.

The beautiful gate, in front of a building site
Due to the extensive repairs that were required visitors were only able to see the grounds; the castle building itself was covered in scaffolding and inaccessible. In spite of this problem I loved what I'd seen of the area and wanted to go back when the repairs had been finished.

It was impossible to see the structure of the walls
Not willing to be defeated, I decided to revisit the area as part of my trip in March 2013 to see what it was supposed to look like.

There are three main ways you can get to Shiroishi by train from central Tokyo. The first is to take one of the luxurious Hayabusa Shinkansen trains all the way to Sendai, then change for the JR Touhoku line to take you back a short way to JR Shiroishi station. This takes you closer to the centre of the city and the historical sites, and if you're planning on seeing Sendai first it's the route which makes the most sense.

Alternatively, you can take a slower Yamabiko Shinkansen and change to the JR Touhoku line at Fukushima station, avoiding going all the way into Sendai and then back out again.

My preferred route is to take the Yamabiko Shinkansen train to Shiroishi Zaou station, which is slightly farther away from the castle than JR Shiroishi. The advantage of this is threefold; it makes it easier to get to Shiroishi directly early in the day (which is important when the tourist attractions closer quite early in the afternoon), and it doesn't require any changes after getting on the Shinkansen so you can relax. It also gives you a chance to visit Shiroishi Zaou station.

Descending into Shiroishi Zaou station from the
Shinkansen platform
Shiroishi Zaou station is almost worthy of a sightseeing trip on its own. It contains a tiny 'Uumen Noodle and Kokeshi Doll Mini-Museum' on one side of the ticket hall, traditional handicrafts, replica armour pieces, Sengoku-themed beer, a mikoshi portable shrine shaped like Shiroishi Castle and an incredible gift shop decorated with Sengoku Basara imagery which sells goods from all over the Touhoku area.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

News roundup: More Busho Matsuri information revealed

The rumour I posted about at the weekend has now received official confirmation as well as a few additional details courtesy of Capcom's own website. Not only will KobaP be presenting new information and footage from Sengoku Basara 4 at the Butai Sengoku Basara stage play event on Saturday 13th July 2013, but Ikeda Shuuichi will also be making a guest appearance!

For anyone reading this who doesn't know, Ikeda Shuuichi is the voice actor who appears in the Sengoku Basara 4 teaser trailer currently running on the official website. He's said to be the voice of a new character - but not one of the two whose silhouettes appear in the trailer itself.

Note that the event, Busho Matsuri, lasts for two days (with two performances on the Saturday), but Ikeda will only be appearing on the 13th at the 12:30 event. We should start hearing online reports of what was announced a few hours after that time.

The Busho Matsuri website has also been updated with the new information. Tickets have allegedly been selling very quickly during the presale period so arrangements are being made available to accommodate more people who weren't able to buy an early ticket. This is great, since the presales took place before the Sengoku Basara 4 link was made and fans who don't follow the stage play might have missed out entirely.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Travel report: Sengoku Basara tourism part 1 - TAF 2013 and Capcom in Tokyo

I started to write a single post about my two visits to Shiroishi Castle from the perspective of a Sengoku Basara fan. It soon became so long that I ended up having to split it into three parts - all because I kept wanting to include details of other things I did on my trips!

Therefore, this first post is all about some of the other Sengoku Basara sights I've enjoyed on my trips to Japan. The castle will come afterwards.

Tokyo International Anime Fair

I went to Tokyo International Anime Fair 2013 (TAF) for the first time on Saturday 24th March 2013, one of the public dates. Buying a ticket in advance was easy thanks to the convenience store reservation system and there was no queue at all when we arrived at Tokyo Big Sight just after 10:00am - we were inside within minutes. The most surprising thing was how tiny the event was, spread over the three East halls. It always looks huge when people post photo reports, but I'm used to attending much larger gatherings whenever I head to Big Sight in search of doujinshi at Comic City or Comiket. I'd never seen the venue so quiet before! The other culture shock was how many foreigners there were. Many of them arrived dressed in cosplay before making a beeline for the fenced-off cosplay area. The whole thing felt just like one of London's MCM Expo events (only without the rampant piracy and stormtroopers).

Dragonball, One Piece and Toriko at the Toei booth

The reason I went to TAF wasn't for the anime coverage this time, even though I was pleased to see Kobayashi Yuu participating in a Ginga He Kickoff panel. It was for something much dorkier: I wanted to buy the special Sengoku Basara goods that appeared on this blog previously!

Sunday 12 May 2013

News roundup: Rumours about Sengoku Basara 4 from the Tokyo stage play performances

This first part is nothing more than a rumour. Popular veteran seiyuu Furukawa Toshio was spotted tweeting about how much he enjoyed going to see the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage stage play a few days ago.  While I stress that there are absolutely no signs he was attending the event as anything more than a fan, some people have been suggesting that his interest in the series might be because he has a role in the upcoming new game. Whether it's true or not, I was very pleased to see that such a big seiyuu likes the series.

The second rumour has a more solid basis since it's being reported on game websites as part of their coverage of the play. I mentioned before that the first ever Sengoku Basara Busho Matsuri event will be held on the 13th July 2013. This festival is predominantly a celebration of the various Butai Sengoku Basara stage plays, but now KobaP has said that it will also feature the debut of new Sengoku Basara 4 footage along with some additional information about the new game. I have mixed feelings about this; it's certainly a good way to draw more fans to the event, yet I'm a little jealous of the hardcore stage play fans since I can't go myself. It's also true that some people only like the stage play, not the games themselves (and vice versa). Hopefully the new material will be good enough to please everyone.

Let's just hope that all of the new material will be posted to the official website the week after the event as usual!

Saturday 11 May 2013

News roundup: Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage reports begin to appear (at last)

It was announced on Friday that the Osaka performances of the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage stage play, which have long been sold out, have had a number of extra standing-only tickets added for each show to accommodate more fans. In the meantime the show has moved on to its third venue, this time in Tokyo. The gaming press has at last begun publishing some reports and photographs which give a taste of the action that the audience has been enjoying; you can see them at 4Gamer.netDengeki and Famitsu.

It looks amazing! I don't suppose that the DVD preorder period will begin online until the show completely finishes its run, but I can't wait. It's great that the stage play includes more characters for a performance which is a couple of hours long than Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- had in its entire series.

Friday 10 May 2013

Today's acquisitions (10th May 2013)

I'm receiving a lot of nice deliveries at the moment. This one included JoJo's Bizarre Adventure volume four, the Sengoku Basara Seigun BEST and Sengoku Basara Tougun BEST CDs, and the first volume of Drifters to go with the volume I bought last week. Oh, and a scary freebie toy from Natsume Yuujinchou.

The most exciting part of the delivery is the pair of CDs, since each contains a track from next year's Sengoku Basara 4 game! The full details are in my earlier post here. Their arrival was timely, as the first batch of the CDs sold out at most stores this week. They should come back in stock soon as they aren't intended to be extremely rare. 

I don't tend to review my CDs because most English-speaking fans just download their copies (it's a little depressing), but I'll make a small exception and put down some quick comments about the new tracks so that I can laugh at myself later when I find out I was wrong about everything. The CD booklets didn't contain any interesting hints about the new game. They did, however, include a few of last year's new illustrations from Browser Sengoku Basara. Some of them were heavily cropped in the game so it was my first time seeing the full versions.

Sengoku Basara Tougun BEST

The Sengoku Basara 4 track on Tougun BEST CD is Tentei ('Ruler of the Heavens'). After ordering the CDs, I was suddenly worried that the preview songs were going to be extremely short. I was relieved when I saw each was just over four minutes long. The first thing I noticed was that it seemed extremely familiar - it turns out that Tentei is the background music used in the Sengoku Basara 4 teaser trailer (which I may have watched too many times). After the part which is used in the trailer, the melody becomes more beautiful and regal in tone; I'm excited imagining what kind of dramatic scenes it's going to accompany in the game!

There is also a previously-unreleased Sengoku Basara 2 track titled Souryuujin ('Twin Dragon Formation'). It's a short, bouncy BGM which I don't remember it from the game, but that's probably because I'm too excited to concentrate on the music whenever I get to go up against Masamune and Kojuurou.

Sengoku Basara Seigun BEST

Sousei ('Genesis' or 'Creation') is Seigun BEST's Sengoku Basara 4 offering. It's mostly a slow, sombre piece with some majestic percussion, though it does vary later on and become more urgent. I'm not sure what this song will be used for since it feels too emotional for most of the content the game is likely to contain. Of the two preview tracks in the set, this one was my favourite.

There are also two additional unreleased tracks from older games. I'm still struggling to place where Sengoku Basara 3's Shukuen ('Fate') is played in the game, which is especially sad as I spent most of the last few years solidly playing it. It's an upbeat, fast song, and wondering about it is going to make me start playing the game again soon. Sengoku BASARA ver. 0 is an almost-unrecognisable take on the series' theme from the first Sengoku Basara.

Thursday 9 May 2013

News roundup: Tsuchiura City Museum event ends, more Mame Sengoku Basara merchandise announced

There hasn't been much solid news for a while since Capcom doesn't want to divert attention away from the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage stage play which is currently running. For those of us who aren't able to watch it, these tiny news updates will have to do.

Once again, there'll be a special 'after talk' event for a few lucky attendees who go to see the new stage play. This time, the session will be in Tokyo on 14th May 2013. The guests will be the same as before: Kubota Yuuki (Date Masamune), Hosogai Kei (Sanada Yukimura) and Nishida Daisuke (stage play organiser).

In other news, the Sengoku Basara tie-in with Tsuchiura City Museum ended on 6th May 2013, attracting 28,057 new museum visitors in less than two months. I think it's safe to say that it was a big success for the local tourism industry in Tsuchiura - the event had four times as many visitors as the previous record-holding exhibition. Hopefully they'll consider arranging more Sengoku Basara attractions in future!

Some promotional videos have also appeared on YouTube showing the three main characters (Yukimura, Kenshin and Inori) from the Takarazuka Revue performance of the new Sengoku Basara -Sanada Yukimura-hen- musical. I'm not going to link to them as they're not authorised videos and they'll be taken down at some point (breaking any links), but they can be found without much effort with a search in Japanese. The footage isn't quite the same as the video I saw at Basara Matsuri 2013, but the main song is: I love that they're working from the game music rather than making up a completely new soundtrack!

Finally, there's more merchandise coming out: these items debuted at an event last week and they're now receiving a limited release for other customers who want to buy them. Everything has a cute Mame Sengoku Basara theme with illustrations by Sumeragi.

First up are collectable Mame Sengoku Basara button badges. They'll be released in capsule machines for ¥200 each. There are eight in the set; the final badge design is a secret (though I have my suspicions based on the other illustrations being used for this set of merchandise).

Next come reusable decorative jackets costing ¥525 each. They're for brightening up IC cards (or anything else that's the right size).

Three different ceramic Mame Sengoku Basara mugs will also be available. Each mug is priced at ¥1,575.

Last but not least are clear Mame Sengoku Basara bookmarks, available in two different designs for ¥525 each. I believe that each set comes as a sheet with four bookmarks; you pop them out of the sheet in order to use them.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Blu-ray review: Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party-

Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- was a live action television drama adaptation based on the Sengoku Basara game series which originally ran as a series of nine episodes from 12th July 2012 until 20th September 2012. Later the same year it was recut into a two-part film series, Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- Remix Zenpen and Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party- Remix Kouhen. These two films were shown in a few selected cinemas across Japan at the end of 2012.

If my Twitter feed at the time was representative, the reaction from the Sengoku Basara fans when the show was airing in Japan ran the gamut from embarrassment to curiosity. Despite the references to previous works, this series has plainly been made for a different audience to the usual hardcore fans who attend the stage plays and obsess over the games. Still, even having experienced the weeks of laughter at the cheap special effects, inaccuracies and general pointlessness of it all, I was eager to see the show for myself.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Today's acquisitions (4th May 2013)

Wow, my tiny little blog got a lot of hits overnight, from all over the world.

Today I went shopping in central London to pick up a couple of things I'd been waiting for. It turned out to be Free Comic Book Day, so when I went into Forbidden Planet I was given a goodie bag full of American comics. Most of them weren't the kind of thing I'd usually read (I'll be giving them to younger family members) but it made the day more interesting. All of the comic shops on my route were full of customers thanks to the event.

Anyway, I bought some manga while I was in the capital. Back at home, the Blu-ray edition of Evangelion 3.33 arrived in the post, along with my set of Sengoku Basara IC card stickers. I can't believe that I had to pay a £9.16 customs charge for the stickers - the actual charge was just £1.16, but the local postal service's fixed processing fee is cruel. At least the relatively expensive Blu-ray set made it through without any charge at all.

Friday 3 May 2013

Magazine review: Sengoku Basara Magazine issue 1

At last, I received my copy of the first issue of Sengoku Basara Magazine, which came out on 27th April 2013 for a hefty ¥2,400. It had been advertised as a publication which was sure to be prized by collectors, but I hadn't realised just how difficult it was going to be to obtain. It wouldn't be surprising to see it receive a second print run given how quickly it disappeared from online shops! Animatee-CapcomAmazonHMV Japan, Rakuten and Hobby Search Japan are all out of stock, so Amazon Marketplace looks as though it's the best option for anyone still looking for a copy outside Japan. I'd better be careful to place my preorder for the second issue in plenty of time.

The magazine is small by Japanese standards - about the same size as Shounen Jump, only a lot thinner at 122 pages. It comes with a Mame Sengoku Basara rubber strap featuring Date Masamune along with a special Showgeki Basara Talk! Masamune & Kojuurou No Maki Vol. 1 CD presented by Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune) and Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou). The CD contains three skits (including a 'live' drama performance) and the opening/closing greetings from the two seiyuu. I haven't had a chance to listen yet.

In terms of the magazine itself, the whole of issue one is themed around Masamune (in case that wasn't obvious from the cover). The main feature is an exclusive interview with producer Kobayashi Hiroyuki (KobaP) and director Yamamoto Makoto on the topic of Sengoku Basara 4.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Today's acquisitions (2nd May 2013)

Today I received something exciting in the post!

In the top left is volume three of the Sengoku Basara fan club newsletter, which I'm not going to talk about further except to say it has nothing to do with Sengoku Basara 4 (I received my copy late). The cover is seasonal as usual and it also came with a mini clear file decorated with Mame Sengoku Basara characters (Muneshige, Sourin, Yoshiaki, Kanbee, Tenkai, Kingo and Gyoubu this time).

Anyway, next to it is Sengoku Basara Magazine issue one! And at the bottom is the special talk CD and the rubber strap which came with it.

I've got other things to attend to tonight, but I'll definitely be reading the magazine as soon as I get a chance to. Sleep is overrated anyway, right?

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Anime review: Rurouni Kenshin -New Kyoto Arc- (Rurouni Kenshin -Meiji Kenkaku Romantan- Shin Kyouto Hen)

Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc is a remake of the most popular 35-episode storyline from the original television adaptation, created as part of the celebrations for the 15th anniversary of the anime series.

The fact that the producers decided to tell such a long story over the course of two 45-minute OAV episodes is cause for concern right from the outset. The original television version was a shounen fighting manga adaptation, and as such it contained some filler and repetition, certainly. However, the Kyoto story was a long one for a reason. The impact of Kenshin's journey is completely destroyed by condensing the journey to fit within such a short run time.

Newcomers can be forgiven for having no sense of the passing of time or distance as they watch this OAV series; it's little more than a high speed recap of the story, stitching together the most important scenes without any of the emotional impact. In addition, characters are introduced at breakneck speed with reliance on the viewer's knowledge of Japanese history or previous experience with the series to fill in the gaps in the story. It's a stark change from the earlier OAVs, which were arguably perfectly watchable even for someone with no prior Rurouni Kenshin exposure.

Perhaps then, it will entertain fans who have watched the series from the beginning? I'm not sure that the New Kyoto Arc succeeds here either. The brisk pace made everything feel disconnected and unimportant, no matter how well the seiyuu acted out each scene.

The art style has also been updated, and that's a pity; the Kyoto Arc from the television series had my favourite designs of the entire series. The new artwork is slick but not as memorable as the charming, slightly dated style used previously. It's also different to the sharper style mangaka Watsuki Nobuhiro adopted later on in the manga which would have been an acceptable alternative. The designs are very simple, which in turn makes it seem cheap whenever there's not much action taking place.

My lasting impression is that I don't really understand why this OAV was made. Most fans have been clamouring for an anime adaptation of the later chapters of the manga (which remain tantalisingly unexplored). Yet instead of that, they've been offered a shallow remake of what was already one of the most beloved adaptations in shounen manga history.

On the positive side, the anime provided a pleasant way to spend an idle evening and seeing certain scenes from Misao's perspective added a fresh twist. Saitou Hajime (now voiced by Narita Ken after the sad passing of Suzuoki Hirotaka) was as cool as ever, now more like a strange Meiji action hero due to the pacing. The first episode also included a raunchy scene between Shishio and Yumi which was unintentionally hilarious, mirroring my feelings about much of the rest of the disc. Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc isn't a bad anime. It's merely a pointless anime.

I watched the Blu-ray version subtitled in Japanese. I have no complaints about the translation or subtitling quality; some people dislike the large yellow subtitles but I don't mind them. An English dub is also present on the disc. There are no extras other than a handful of Sentai Filmworks trailers.

It's always felt unfair that Rurouni Kenshin has never had a proper chance in the UK. The television adaptation was released in the US at a time when long-running series were too much of a risk for the market over here and consequently only the OAVs (and weirdly, the movie) ever received a physical release in this country, back when ADV Films were still active. With all of the previous material now long out of print it remains to be seen whether one of the local licensors will decide to give this new mini-series a release at all. In the meantime, Sentai Filmworks' US edition came out on 5th March 2013 and it can be purchased quite cheaply online as either a DVD or Blu-ray.