Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)

Archive for the ‘Anime Reviews’

Review of Memories By Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

July 16, 2013 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Media Interests

Memories Cover

-== What is it? ==-

Memories is a set of three animated science fiction tales. These three stories are adapted from manga short stories by the legendary writer Katsuhiro Otomo. Katsuhiro Otomo worked on Akira, Robot Carnival, and Steamboy. All three animated yarns total 113 minutes of content. Memories was released in 1995.

There is light violence and adult themes in the stories but overall Memories is pretty tame. Amazon rates the DVD at PG-13 and I think that is accurate.

I purchased the standard edition version of Memories. I will be reviewing that version in this article.

-== What I Like ==-

The first story on Memories is the favorite of many reviewers. Magnetic Rose is the story of a space garbage collection team who gets a distress signal that leads them to a “haunted” residence of a former opera singer. As they search the place they get pulled into the life of the former owner. The story is both creepy and seductive. The artwork is clean and fresh. I give this story an 8 out of 10 paws.

Stink Bomb is the second story. This Memories tale involves an employee who mistakenly takes an experimental drug thinking it is flu medicine. Things go from bad to worse when everyone start dying around him. The protagonist is completely clueless to what is happening which loads the story full of black comedy. The writing is wonderful. The story is funny, charming, and smart. I give this story 9 out of 10 paws.

The final story of Memories, Cannon Fodder, is a gorgeous glimpse into the steampunk aesthetic. The story involves a schoolchild in a city at war with a nebulous foe. His father goes to work each day to work on the cannons. The child’s big dream is being the one who gets to fire the biggest cannon. The artwork is looser than the other stories but it really matches the tale perfectly. Cannon Fodder is not anything like its title…it is top notch. I give this story 8 out of 10 stars.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

The extra DVD features include trailers and a “making of” piece called “Memories Of Memories“. The extras are not exciting.

-== Summary ==-

Memories is strong collection of science fiction anime tales. At a price point of below $15 this DVD is a real steal. Go make some of your own memories watching anime writer Katsuhiro Otomo at his best.

I give it 8 out of 10 paws.

You can get a copy at Amazon for $14.97 at this URL. Surprisingly does not have copies of Memories for sale.

Review of Samurai Jack Season 1 By Cartoon Network

June 04, 2013 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Media Interests

Samurai Jack Season 1

-== What is it? ==-

Samurai Jack Season 1 is an animated TV show about a powerful samurai who gets sent to the future by an evil Chinese devil known as Aku. Season 1 originally aired from August 2001 to November 2001. It was produced by Genndy Tartakovsky.

There is no nudity in the series and no sexual references. Combat involves the destruction of robots and strange beasts only. Fight scenes in Samurai Jack are very violent but they are done in a light cinematic fashion. I would rate the series at 10 years and up.

I purchased the standard edition version of the DVD boxed set. There are XIII episodes that are roughly 22 minutes length. The DVD entry on Amazon says that there is 299 minutes of material in the boxed set.

-== What I Like ==-

Samurai Jack is an iconic cartoon series and one of the things that helped catapult Genndy Tartakovsky into the spotlight of animation greatness. Each episode of the series is presented as a small movie with sweeping cinematic images and fantastic storytelling. Season 1 of Samurai Jack lays the groundwork for the rest of the series.

The individual episodes in season 1 are not as strong as those in season 2 but there are still some standouts that deserve mention. Here are the episodes that I would rank at 8 out of 10 paws or higher.

  • I – 10 out of 10 paws – The main story of Aku and Jack. The training scenes with young Jack are breathtakingly done and capture the attention of the viewer. The artwork style is clean yet fluid. The music is sweeping in scope and really sets the tone for the epic nature of the series.
  • III – 8 out of 10 paws – A very A-Team like episode. The extended fight scene in this ep ebbs and flows through its course.
  • V – 8 out of 10 paws – Astronauts trying to return home. Jack allows them to escape but traps himself in the future.
  • VI – 10 out of 10 paws – A fantastic yarn where Jack meets a strange woman in black who has a prophecy about a gem that can return Jack to the past. The pair travel across the land facing dangers. Wonderful ending. Iconic Jack ep.
  • VII – 10 out of 10 paws – This might be my favorite ep of the first season. It involves a legend of a pool that can grant wishes and three blind kangaroo archers of superior skill. The casual opening is just fantastic. It is a calm before the storm. The way music and sound are used and taken away in this episode is off the charts beautiful. Listen to and watch one of the greatest Jack stories of the entire run.
  • IX – 9 out of 10 paws – In this story Jack visits an underwater city. Fantastic fish creatures and ships. Wonderful plot twist.
  • XI – 9 out of 10 paws – This ep is Jack’s first meeting with the Scotsman. The scene on the bridge is fantastic and wonderfully done. The Scotsman is by far my favorite recurring Samurai Jack character.
  • XII – 9 out of 10 paws – Mobsters who befriend Jack for their own gain. This ep shows the vast range that the design crew was willing to take with the series. From the Scotsman to dog mobsters. Don’t get much better.
  • XIII – 8 out of 10 paws – Nice story of some kids telling fairy takes about Jack and Aku. The ep gets really funny when Aku tells his version of the stories where he is the hero. Classic ep.

There are not a lot of extras with the Season 1 boxed set. The only extra worth commenting about is a “making of” piece. It is nicely done but I would have liked to see a bit more. There are also episode commentaries which vary in relevance.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

There are a couple of episodes in the first season that are not that strong. I am not fond of ep II where Jack gets his name or ep VIII that really has no plot besides a bunch of bounty hunters trying to kill Jack. Both lack the heart of other episodes in Season 1.

-== Summary ==-

Samurai Jack is one of my favorite animated TV shows of all time. The only animated series that even comes close is Batman: The Animated Series from Bruce Timm. Season 1 of the series is a GREAT collection and is highly recommended. The price point from Amazon is also quite good.

I give it 9 out of 10 paws.

You can get copies of the DVD on Amazon for $15.49 at this URL.

The 2012 Lair Awards

January 18, 2013 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Fun Reads, Games, Growlings, Media Interests, Product Reviews


Welcome to the third annual Lair Awards. It is again time to pick through the fumbles to uncover some critical hits. This year I will not be changing the format.

Here is how the 2012 Lair Awards will work. There will be four categories: Best Anime, Best Read, Best RPG, and Best Session. To be eligible for an award the product must have been reviewed in the calendar year by me on the blog. There were a TON of great products released in 2012 but if I did not review them they don’t count. Also note that I often review products that are quite old. A product is eligible for an award if I reviewed it in 2012…period…it does not matter when the product was actually released. πŸ˜‰

The envelopes please! πŸ˜€

Best Anime – Samurai Jack Season 2

Picking the winner for this category was difficult. I watched three animated features that I thought were very good. Here is a list of the three that stood out with some comments and links to the detailed reviews. These are presented in alphabetical order.

  • Mushi-Shi – A rare series that merits buzz words like serene, exquisite, and enchanting. A true joy to watch.
  • Patlabor The Movie – Classic giant robot movie with action, investigation, and drama. Off the charts set of extras in the limited edition DVD set.
  • Samurai Jack Season 2 – Season 2 has some of the best episodes in the entire run. The three that really stand out include XVII (The Scotsman), XIX (Lone Wolf And Cub), and XXV (300).

When I was considering these entries I thought about each one then reread my reviews. They all have some amazing content but Samurai Jack Season 2 raises to the top of the pile because of some superior episodes. The Scotsman episode (XVII) is probably my favorite episode of Samurai Jack. Every time I watch it I fight to stay seated on my couch. πŸ˜€

Best Read – No Winner!

Houston we have a problem! I realized a bit too late the I did not have any print media reviews this year. Wow…this is something that I must address in 2013. I read some wonderful stuff in 2012 that just did not make it to the blog. πŸ™

Best RPG – The Widening Gyre

The award for Best RPG was easy this year. Bill Keyes really hit it out of the industrial park with his steampunk genre book for the Hero System called The Widening Gyre. The amount of coverage and the high quality of the writing make this one a real winner. The Widening Gyre should be considered THE steampunk sourcebook for Hero. (I just heard today that Bill is contemplating a version of The Widening Gyre for Savage Worlds. That would be great. πŸ™‚ )

In this section I also wanted to mention a blog post that I did called One Patron’s Guide To Crowd Sourcing RPGs. I think this is my best blog post on the site for 2012.

Best Session – Spirit Storm Session #34 – Vault Of The Dragon Kings

I had a lot of fun gaming in 2012 and I was able to blog about many of them through the session reports. The sessions that I blogged about in 2012 included Sessions #34-#35 of Spirit Storm and Session #1-#8 of The Armitage Files. After reviewing all of these blog posts I decided the my favorite session was Spirit Storm Session #34 – Vault Of The Dragon Kings. The massive climactic dual between Avatars Of The Great Tree and Sunscratch in Cragspine’s body were just a blast. Every PC really shined in that adventure. Highlights included Cillian taking on his dragon form for the first time, Oren’s crushing blow on Sunscratch’s skull, Bilby’s acrobatic prowess, and Po’s powerful curses.

If I had to pick a second favorite it would be The Armitage Files Session #6 – Travelling Side Show Freaks. The roleplaying and depth of investigation in this session is really wonderful.

Please reply if you have any comments. πŸ™‚