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Anime Reviews: Tales of Reapers, a Lolita Squad, Sex Pot Goddesses, Sexy Santa and More

This month anime reviewer James Brusuelas checks out Bleach the Movie, Darker Than Black, Coyote Ragtime Show, Ah! My Goddess, When They Cry, My Santa and Hunter x Hunter.

Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody is Bleach at its best.

Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody2008. Director: Noriyuki Abe. 90 minutes. DVD, $29.98. Distributor: Viz Media.

Story arcs of both the manga and television series set aside, Bleach the Movie places Ichigo Kurosaki back home in Karakura, where, alongside Rukia, his shinigami duties have resumed. The job of conveying souls into the next world, however, is suddenly interrupted by a disturbing phenomenon. An unknown form of lost soul appears in the world of the living, along with a mysterious new soul reaper: the very delectable Senna. Within one afternoon Ichigo and Rukia learn that both the Soul Society and the world of living are in jeopardy. Thus a new adventure begin.

Well, what can I say? This is Bleach at its best. Although the story is an utterly tangential concoction -- which may or may not settle well with hardcore fans, it's clear, fast paced, and full of the usual dramatic action and comedy. Better still, the death looming over both worlds demands the zanpaktu and bankai (i.e., the special skills) of all our favorite soul reapers. Even cool Byakyu shows a little brotherly affection for Rukia. Simply put, this movie is nothing more than a celebration of the Bleach family. I'll bet a hundred in Vegas that, after watching, Bleach fans will be even more desperate for a zanpaktu of their own.

After you past the vague backdrop and initial, disconnected storylines in Darker Than Black, Volume 1, there is something here.

Darker Than Black Vol. 12008 TV Series (five episodes). Director: Tensai Okamura. 120 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $29.98. Distributor: Funimation.

A relatively new series produced by Tensai Okamura and Bones, Darker Than Black is set in a Tokyo plagued by international and supernatural intrigue. Approximately 10 years ago, an abnormal space, afterward dubbed Hell's Gate, suddenly manifested in Tokyo. The landscape and sky was immediately altered, most notably, by the emergence of "false stars." With each new star, a person with supernatural abilities correspondingly appeared. Called Contractors, these cold and calculated beings are used as assassins and spies by a variety of international organizations. Enter the Black Reaper, a.k.a BK-201-- each contractor is named after his or her star. Disguised as a Chinese student named Li Shengshun, he works for an outfit known as the Syndicate.

Essentially framed within the genres of sci-fi and espionage, Darker Than Black seems to take its cues from anime like Ghost in the Shell and Ergo Proxy. The espionage angle elicits a type crime drama, as a high-tech police task force struggles to hunt down these paranormal criminals and their handlers. Yet, these supernatural powers combined with the enigmatic Hell's Gate suggest that something otherworldly is driving the story. For better or worse, the initial five episodes of volume one do not provide a lot of answers. Rather, we are only introduced to the Black Reaper, his desire to find his sister, and his roughish Syndicate team. The action is good. But the story seems a little scattered at times, since it simultaneously introduces numerous plot points. Nevertheless, in a very Lost fashion, there is something here. You just have to get past the vague backdrop and initial, disconnected storylines. Let's hope the larger story arc is concisely executed, so as to properly to sink that hook into us!

Coyote Ragtime Show: The Complete Box Set2008 TV Series (twelve episodes). Director: Takuya Nonaka. 300 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Five days. That's how much time planet Graceland has left. After that, boom! It'll no longer exist. But there's just one problem. Billions in stolen loot remain hidden somewhere on the planet, left by the now deceased Pirate King Bruce. So, the race is on. The rogue pirate known only as Mister, along with his unsavory band -- called coyotes -- and Bruce's daughter is on the hunt for the biggest payday of his life. Time, however, is not the only obstacle. Mister has not only to elude a curvaceous police inspector, but also a murderous troop of cybernetic Lolitas. Hey, it's good to be a pirate.

"Bullets, Blades, Bombs, Beauty, Boobs." That is the pitch for the Coyote Ragtime Show. As such, it surely delivers! This series ever so gently strokes the male sensibility. In one corner, we have investigator Angelica Burns and the murderously sensual Lolita squad, each of whom wears a weapon as deadly as her skirt. On the other, is Mister; a pony-tailed, cigar smoking, scruffy-chinned, rogue, who's always packing a big gun. Do I really have to say more? Or should I bring Freudian psychoanalysis into this? As you might guess, action meets cliché in this masculine romp. Nevertheless, it's still a good ride. Grab a few boys and check this out!

Though cute and entertaining in its execution, Ah! My Goddess: Season 2 is beset by a problem typical of some

Ah! My Goddess: Season 22008 TV Series (24 episodes). Director: Hiroaki Goda. 600 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $69.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Based on the long running manga series -- appearing first in 1988 -- tells the story of college freshmen Keiichi Morisato. In a nutshell, Keiichi accidently calls the Goddess Technical Help Line -- yes, I actually said that -- and the goddess Belldandy appears offering him one wish. Thinking it a joke, and quite taken with the young divinity, he wishes that she stay with him forever. Based on a comedy of errors, the hilarity thus ensues. Keiichi must navigate his divinely problematic love over waves full of crazy mortals and sex-pot goddesses.

Though cute and entertaining in its execution, this series is beset by a problem typical of some "seinen" manga. It just doesn't translate well. Aimed at a young male Japanese audience, its comedy abounds with a distinct propriety. Keiichi's long and awkward courtship of Belldandy is defined by its morality, as much as it is colored with slight innuendo and scantily clad, intervening goddesses. Yet, for the average teenage American boy these days -- for better or worse -- such romantically comic titillation is often considered mundane and boring. Ironically Ah! My Goddess will probably be deemed a "chick-flick." At any rate, I'm not sure what to do with this.

The story for When They Cry Vol. 5 is steeped in Japanese mythology, especially pertaining to rural areas.

When They Cry Vol. 52008 TV Series (four episodes). Director: Chiaki Kon. 100 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $29.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Okay, the plot. Set in the rural village of Hinamizawa, Keiichi Maebara becomes entangled in a supernatural murder mystery. For the past four years, a death has annually coincided with the Watanagashi Festival. Caught between the rustic population and the local god Oyashiro, Keiichi and friends rapidly descend into a deadly cycle of paranoia and murder. Volume five, in particular, tracks the events surrounding the disappearance of Satoshi, the younger brother of Satoko -- one of the principal characters.

Originally an interactive visual novel (a subtly interactive PC text with multiple story lines and endings, often compared to a Choose Your Own Adventure book), the immense popularity of When They Cry (originally titled When The Cicadas Cry) instigated the production of both manga and anime. The story is steeped in Japanese mythology, especially pertaining to rural areas, and undoubtedly found its fan base in the rising popularity of the horror genre in Japan. Be that as it may, this series failed to grab me. It's beautifully drawn. Its characters are alluring and edgy. Its violence is even disturbing and unexpected. But I found it a bit slow and somewhat disheveled. Nevertheless, if supernatural murder/crime is your thing, have at it. You may like it.

My Santa is pure comic fantasy and is good for a chuckle.

My Santa2008. Director: Noriyuki Nakamura. 55 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $14.98. Distributor: Funimation.

Well, since it's the Christmas season, here you go. So, what would you do if your parents were absent during the Yuletide season, your birthday was on Christmas Eve, and someone had the grand foresight to name you Santa? Obviously, and much like the Santa here, you wouldn't be a fan of reindeer, sleighs, and catchy little tunes that tickle your gut to the point of vomiting. But all that is about to change. Enter crazy girl Mai, a sexy Santa-in-Training -- again, yes, I actually said that! She'll do just about anything to lift this boy's spirit.

Needless to say, My Santa is pure comic fantasy. More precisely, it's an adult version of learning to believe in the power of Christmas. After all, the reward for believing in old St. Nick is not a cozy family gathering, nor even that first kiss under the mistletoe. Instead, believing in Mai only physically transforms her into a curvaceous and voluptuous bombshell. Yep, it's like an instant visit to Dr. 90210.

A cute, typical love story peppered with adult content, My Santa is tolerable. At the very least, it's good for a chuckle. And the sight of Mai riding that sleigh in her sexy Santa outfit resurrects that familiar pun: ho ho ho!

Hunter x Hunter first appeared almost 10 years ago and may seem too outdated.

Hunter x Hunter2008 TV Series (15 episodes). Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi. 300 minutes. DVD, $49.98. Distributor: Viz Media.

Brought to you by Yoshihiro Togashi, the creator of Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter is a typical coming-of-age tale. Young Gon lives a serene life on Whale Island under the watchful eye of his aunt. This serenity, however, is shattered when Gon leans his father is not only alive, but is also a renowned Hunter, legendary trackers of men, beasts, and even treasure. Determined to fallow in his father's footsteps, Gon embarks upon an epic journey of tests and contests as he labors to achieve the status of a licensed Hunter.

This animated series first appeared in 1999, and herein lays the rub. Hunter x Hunter may seem too outdated. Visually speaking, its animation definitely shows its age. More important, Gon's path of martial arts training and developing friendships closely parallels anime like Naruto. It's dicey whether or not a young audience, who has clearly been indulged in cutting edge tech and content, will buy into Gon's tale. Don't get me wrong. This anime is not at all bad. Although the initial story arc of Gon's training is slow, the later perfection of his techniques in daily fighting tournaments invokes the action that made Yu Yu Hakusho's reputation.

Raised on such iconic, westernized giants as G-Force, Voltron and Robotech, James Brusuelas is a literary scholar and freelance writer based out of Orange County in Southern California.

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