Oh! My Zombie Mermaid

Pro wrestling done in a campy style by people who love the industry can make for an enjoyable way to pass 100 minutes.

What They Say
Kouta is the leader of Zero, the smash-hit pro-wrestling organization. He's having a house warming party at his brand new palatial palace when things get out of hand. Ichijoh has a grudge against Kouta and decides to crash the party. Ichijoh provokes Zero's young wrestlers into a fight.

Things get heated as Kouta erupts into a rage of anger; the skirmish escalates into a tremendous battle royal that leaves the mansion in shambles. Kouta's wife, Asami, is injured in the assault and must seek medical treatment that backfires and causes her to contract a strange disease that turns her into a zombie mermaid! Kouta needs to rebuild his house and save his wife. The only solution is a multi-stage fight to the death shown on live TV!

The Review!
Audio:
The feature contains no English track but does feature both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. For the purpose of this review the Japanese 5.1 track was used and the track was effective in its presentation. There were no dropouts or distortions notice and all speakers got a good work out as the track took care to use the rear speakers to help add depth to the music and effects.

Video:
Originally created in 2004 the feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen. It is a fairly decent presentation with the exception of noise (which the grain almost but not quite covers when looking closely) and a few instances of aliasing. There is some softness to the picture as well but overall colors come across in a variety of fashion from vibrant to faded where appropriate and the blacks come across very solid as well.

Packaging:
The front of the cover features the titular mermaid (though it is Eastern Star's title to play off Oh! My Goddess and the Japanese title references pro wrestling instead) as well as the lead Shishio down in the right corner looking like he is spoiling for a fight. Just behind him is the castle where the final showdowns take place and there are also pictures of the opponents he fights that appear in some of the white circles on the cover that look like air bubbles. The bottom of the cover is a dark grey that changes to black the higher it goes. The back contains three shots from the film as well as another shot of the mermaid faded beneath the box copy.

Menus:
The menu is a static affair with Shishio standing in the lower middle of the screen and the right hand side having a shot of the mermaid from the film and the left a scale like pattern with the castle from the film at the bottom. The Language screen has another shot of the mermaid and a better shot of the castle whit the extras has a still from an explosion early in the film as its backdrop. The menus are quick to move with selections and to engage the selections chosen.

Extras: There is a good selection of extras on this title which include Sonim's Stunt Training, a making of the explosion scene, and a special introduction from the cast at the premier screening. The feature does not have the commercial or special announcement listed on the back of the case however.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The film starts with the main character's (Shishio) wife Asami inside their new home playing the piano as the family welcomes their friends to their house warming. As Shishio is a pro wrestler so are the majority of the guests who arrive. Trouble appears as a foreign wrestler (Mark Ichijoh) arrives to confront Shishio about his brother's death in the ring at Shishio's hands. When Shishio tells Ichijoh to leave a fight breaks out which in pro wrestling fashion turns into a mad brawl of people fighting each other and doing massive damage to the house. The fight moves outside just as the house explodes-with Asami still inside.

Shishio's children and his sister-in-law Nami visit at the hospital to try to find out news on Asami and find Shishio in shock over the events. Things get worse for him when the doctor tells him even if she does live she likely suffered massive brain damage. Shishio remembers when he started dating Asami and how she was reluctant to love a pro wrestler as her father had been a famous on but couldn't provide for her or her sister Nami. Shishio recalls the pledge he made to take care of her and to provide her a house which he becomes fixated on. As he is leaving his latest event two scrawny fans named Toru and Shota announce their respect for Shishio and their desire to join his Zero promotion.

All is not well in his stable however as rather than paying the other wrestlers under him Shishio is pouring all the earnings the group makes into building a new house under the obsession that the act will somehow cause his wife to heal. Nami tries to convince him otherwise but Shishio isn't listening. To get money he even agrees to star with his family in a reality TV program which will document his families days-including Asami in the hospital. Things take a final turn toward the horrible for him as his wife awakes-but her skin starts peeling off and she has scales growing underneath. The doctor says it is a rare disease that is turning her into a mermaid.

When Shishio's group leaves him and his wife attempts suicide Shishio is left in a corner where the only thing he can think of to survive is to accept an offer from a shady TV producer who arranges for a new dwelling to be built that Shishio can have-if he can win a series of matches with a dangerous organization called DDD which is known to kill people. When Shishio's friends in his group are attacked he is left to face the dangerous and bizarre individuals in matches to win his new dwelling, avenge his friends and try to save his wife. He will also need to rely on the actions of his two fans Toru and Shota and hope they can help protect his wife and unravel the mystery of her illness. Can even one of the most dominant wrestlers in Japan win in the face of such odds? And who are the shadows in the background who have set all these motions into play and for what reason?

Oh! My Zombie Mermaid is all the fun of pro wrestling meets the standard martial arts 'work one's way through the tower of death' with plenty of camp thrown in. The tower has some gorgeous scenery and comical traps and the film is simultaneously a send up and love letter to professional wrestling. The down side is a lot of the characters are a bit underdeveloped and the enemies at the end cross the line and tries to make a number of them enemies seem actually like undead monsters rather and stretch the story in a direction it didn't really need to go. The mermaid aspect is also a weird throw in that really doesn't advance the story any plus there is very little interaction between the main character and his wife which does cut down on the sympathy factor a bit.

In Summary:
Oh! My Zombie Mermaid is a camp fest for lovers of pro wrestling who don't need to take it seriously and wonder what a movie playing off some of the story lines from the business could look like. It plays most of the time as a straight story but never tries to take itself too seriously with actions. The film almost plays out like a spin off from the old Hulk Hogan's Rock and Wrestling cartoon but never tries to insult the industry or the fans of it as other movies have. It isn't a film for everyone as some pieces like the mermaid aspect seem to happen just because the studio could do it but fans of camp and those who can enjoy pro wrestling while also laughing at its absurdities will find a picture worth their time.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview, Photo gallery, Making of Featurette, Sonin's Stunt Training, Trailers.

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

Grade: B
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
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Casshern Sins 1

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

What They Say
Casshern, a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past, awakens in a corrosive wasteland where nothing survives for long. A plague known as the Ruin sweeps across this once-vibrant world, reducing everything in its path to rubble and scattering any chance for salvation. Robots and humans alike - or what little remains of them - seek vengeance against Casshern for the life he took and the role he played in their Ruin. A machine built to kill, Casshern murdered the last hope for this world, but now, lost in a future he does not recognize, he will fight to save the dying.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review!

Audio:
For the purposes of the review the Japanese track was used. The track is a 2.0 track that uses the side speakers for most of the voices and sounds and produces a rather full sound in this manner. Dialogue is clear and there are no instances or dropouts or distortions noticed. The center speaker gets some of the dedicated music work which helps that seem a bit fuller as well without drowning out the focus driven parts from the sides.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008 the video is presented in 16:9. The video is very good as the colors are rich and vibrant and the blacks are solid as well. There is some minor noise but it is often hard to pick up given that the animation style can waver a bit between very solid to a softer look giving the series an almost ethereal look at times.

Packaging:
The set comes in the FUNimation standard two slim cases with a thin cardboard outer wrap box. The outer box features a close up of Casshern with his helmet on that sort of melts into the Ruin looking background. The back features a silhouette set against a bleak background along with six still from the series. FUNimation does a nice job with the cardboard by having it be a rougher type rather than a slick material they sometime use which adds weight to the images used. For the interior art the first case features a helmet less Casshern and Friender against a red background. The second discs features a close up of Dio with Leda standing behind him with a dark purple hue on them and a dark green background at the far right.

Menus:
The menu screen is a rather basic affair with the title and catch phrase for the series in large letters posted above some smaller text stating that the disc is Part One Disc One and contains episodes 1-6. This text is over what appears to be a very close up shot of Casshern’s chest with the “ruin” effect in play. The bottom quarter of the screen has the options for play all, episodes and audio. A fairly somber piece plays in the background. The audio screen has a different close up of Casshern’s chest with a far more up tempo track in the background. The episodes screen has a close up of the crest of Casshern’s helmet with a slow and slightly sad track playing as its background.

Extras:
The only extra is an almost twelve minute video from the Japanese preview event where some of the voice actors and the director have a panel introducing the show and some of their character’s role in the beginning of the production.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The feature opens with Casshern confronting a young looking girl named Luna and proclaiming that he is going to kill her. It is a quick piece before the opening song and becomes a common thread through this set as the scene appears at the beginning of all the episodes with some of them giving more detail into the progression of this event. The story then shifts after the opening with Casshern fighting a robot and winning with little effort. A cloaked figure crossing the dessert has a monologue explaining that the world started down the path of destruction from the moment Casshern killed Luna. From there the story returns to Casshern who is facing an army of robots who all want to kill and devour him. His battle is watched by Lyuze who has an agenda of her own and a score to settle with Casshern. Casshern confronts the last enemy robot facing him and learns that the robots are affected by something called “Ruin” which will eventually destroy them. There is a rumor however that devouring Casshern will grant eternal life which leads into the main focus for the story as Casshern is confronted on almost all sides from those who want him dead for causing the ruin to happen and those who believe the rumor that devouring Casshern will save them. Casshern also demonstrates that his grip on reality may be a touch tenuous as he has a wound that appears and disappears and he then seems to be warped out of shape and screams in agony.

His cry is heard some distance away as a young girl named Ringo is awakened from her slumber and questions her guardian Ohji who sends her back to sleep. At the same time the figure that has been walking through the desert comes across the scene of the battle. One of the robot heads still functions and is still obsessed with devouring Casshern though the figure knows this rumor to be a lie. He then engages in some talk with Ohji who has driven up nearby and they speak on how Casshern has awakened and Ohji’s business will pick up. The next morning as Ringo is playing in the shallow part of the shore collecting seashells she spies Casshern sitting alone and staring at the horizon. When she questions him if he is a human or robot he replies with he doesn’t know.

Casshern’s looks will cause him trouble throughout the set as he doesn’t look human but a robot that contains no sign of Ruin attracts no small amount of attention. When talking with Ringo it becomes apparent Casshern doesn’t remember anything-he only knows his name because the robots trying to kill him kept repeating it. Ringo talks about how she is a robot and starting to show signs of Ruin but Ohji has put a band around her head to cover it. As Ringo hugs Casshern before leaving him Casshern has a flash back to Luna. Before Ringo can make it back to Ohji she is assaulted by a robot necessitating Casshern coming to her aid. The aid proves a double edged sword as despite Casshern saving her she saw something dark in him during his merciless fight with the robot. After Ringo and Ohji have left Casshern is confronted by Lyuze who tells him in the past he killed the sun named moon and brought about Ruin.

As Casshern wanders the wasteland that remains of the world he runs into various survivors who are confronting their inevitable demise. Some try to meet it with grace while others try to instill hope and many others have abandoned themselves to fate but see Casshern as a chance at eternal life by eating Casshern. With this rumor swirling through the wasteland Casshern will discover that he has few who do not seek to either punish him for his past deeds or to use him as a tool to obtain eternal life. Casshern starts to believe he is a curse and try to keep others from being near him and inflicting pain on them. Despite this he has a number of encounters from learning what humans are like to gaining a not always consistent traveling companion who also has so far escaped the effects of Ruin. Along the way he will also encounter robot’s just looking to fight, stories of the former ruler of the world Braiking Boss and an opponent who wishes to replace him-and wants Casshern’s head to help him do it.

As he travels the wilderness he will discover that even among despair there are some who hold out hope and he takes on the burden of trying to find the rumored to still be living Luna and bring salvation to the land he visited destruction upon while also fighting a dark portion in his soul that takes over during battle. The series does a good job of portraying the emotions of many of the characters in a wasteland where death appears inevitable and how different personalities deal with this dire outlook. The mystery surrounding Casshern and his attempt to piece his past together along with the viewer is a nice touch. The visuals are top notch though can vary a bit throughout perhaps signifying the transient nature of the current reality. The feature is more than a little bleak and nihilistic which may not appeal to everyone and at times does feel like it is trying to manipulate the audience and their reactions with some of the stories and characters found within.

In Summary:
Casshern Sins part one is a dark look at a bleak environment which follows the character that supposedly brought the destruction. Watching the robots act in a very human manner to their impending death serves as a stand in for the mostly absent humanity as the nature of how one deals with the knowledge they have a fatal disease-and the distance between those who decide to accept fate, those who just give up hope and those who refuse to just go quietly into the good night. Casshern sins is an interesting look at how one person tries to deal with the knowledge he brought about the downfall of all around him while also having to deal with the reactions of those who can see right away he is different and the strains this and the knowledge of his actions place on his shoulders.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Pre-Air Event, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony

Grade: B
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
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Casshern Sins 2

Does light need dark to exist and be appreciated? And if so can life truly exist without death?

What They Say
In the wake of a devastating plague known as the Ruin, Casshern - a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past - must fight to save a civilization he pushed to the brink of destruction. He hunts the one they call Braiking Boss, the robotic overlord who ordered Casshern to serve as the executioner of Luna: bringer of salvation.

Surrounded by dying eyes that look upon him with fear and disgust, Casshern walks the wasteland of his own creation, driven to destroy Braiking Boss and remind Luna of her duty. Should she fail to heed his warning, Casshern must assume the specter of death in order to salvage what little beauty remains in a ruined world.

Contains episodes 13-24.

The Review!
Audio:
For the purposes of the review the Japanese track was used. The track is a 2.0 track that uses the side speakers for most of the voices and sounds and produces a rather full sound in this manner. Dialogue is clear and there are no instances or dropouts or distortions noticed. The center speaker gets some of the dedicated music work which helps that seem a bit fuller as well without drowning out the focus driven parts from the sides.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008 the video is presented in 16:9. The video is very good as the colors are rich and vibrant and the blacks are solid as well. There is some minor noise but it is often hard to pick up given that the animation style can waver a bit between very solid to a softer look giving the series an almost ethereal look at times.

Packaging:
Casshern Sins comes in a typical FUNimation thin pack set of two smaller cases with their own artwork housed in thin cardboard housing. The cover of the cardboard housing features an almost sketched image of Casshern on the far right side and even part of the right side of his body seems to be at one with the background adding a touch of the ephemeral to the cover that the series also contains. The background colors are a mix of white and gray which create a rather bleak landscape with pieces of black floating in front which are physical representations of the effects of the Ruin. The back features a figure in silhouette that will bring a change to the series focus and six stills from the show. A great touch here is that the cardboard used for the sleeve is not the slick kind but a bit of a rougher type that helps add depth to the art and the texture also helps give a bit of weight to the series found within.

The individual thin pack covers feature Lyuze and Ringo. The Lyuze cover has a very sad looking shot of her extending her arm blade with a primarily orange color used in the background and her while the Ringo cover has Ringo clutching some cloth to her chest in with her head down looking like she might be deep in prayer with its deep purples and white coloring. The backs to both list the episodes found within but the covers are also reversible and while the images themselves are the same there is a good deal of black ruin looking effect to add to the weight of the pictures and the placement in the series.

Menus:
The menu screen is a rather basic affair with the title and catch phrase for the series in large letters posted above some smaller text stating that the disc part, number and the contained episodes. This text is over what appears to be a very close up shot of Casshern’s chest with the “ruin” effect in play. The bottom quarter of the screen has the options for play all, episodes and audio. A fairly somber piece plays in the background. The audio screen has a different close up of Casshern’s chest with a far more up tempo track in the background. The episodes screen has a close up of the crest of Casshern’s helmet with a slow and slightly sad track playing as its background.

Extras:
The second sets extras include a mini concert performance of the opening theme song “Azure Flowers” by the band Color Bottle, Original Japanese ads for the first DVD and textless open and closing songs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The second set opens with a crying Ringo assuring Casshern it isn’t his fault. From here the feature jumps to a camp where a robot arrives to proclaim that Luna has saved him. The hope of salvation begets a pilgrimage of a large number of robots to where Luna is said to be. Among these looking for her is Casshern, who Lyuze confronts trying to find both the reason for what he is doing but also why she walks the path she does-especially if it is true Luna didn’t die the first time. At the same time Dio is trying to come to terms with what it is he truly wants and starts to understand why Braiking Boss originally ordered Luna’s death as the rumors of her existence start to divide his ranks.

The path to Luna is one that Casshern feels he must walk as now that he has seen the effects of Ruin he wants to find some way to stop it and finding Luna may be the first step to understanding why it happened. Along the path Ohji and Ringo are reunited with Casshern, Lyuze and Freinder. As the group takes refuge from the rain Lyuze notices something rather strange about Ringo but before much can be asked a ghost rises from the wilderness to join their reprieve. The figure turns out to know things about both Casshern’s past and Luna. The secret of the figure’s identity starts to overwhelm Casshern and also opens a past between Casshern and Oji.

At last the secrets of the enmity between humans and robots will be laid bare and the hubris designs of some of the robots at the time to become like gods is laid bare. The machinations that lead to the creation of a new type of robot and the connection between Casshern, Dio and Leda are spread out and the reason for the order to kill Luna is also finally revealed. The weight of the past start to weigh even heavier on those involved-nearly overwhelming Casshern. Casshern is now challenged with taking responsibility for what he has done as an old schemer tries to place one last plan in motion.

Casshern is placed on a collision course with Dio’s army as both are trying to arrive at the same goal though for very different reasons. As they travel there will be many encounters including some with past opponents as well as some conflicts that characters will find within themselves. What will be the result when the Sun named Moon is encountered and will she turn out to be far less a savior then advertized. And what will the different characters do when they start to think about the reason for the path they are on and think of changing it.

The second set continues to build on the momentum of the first by creating a rich world where death loams ever closer yet is approached in different ways by the characters in the work. Some fear death more than anything else and in so doing cling to life at any cost. The series nicely balances the ideas of nihilism and hope while walking a fine line not to become overly preachy in its message. On the down side so many characters and ideas are presented that some wind up feeling underdeveloped which costs the series a bit of its impact.

In Summary:
Casshern Sins certainly lives up to its name with a character first bringing death to the world and then struggling with the weight of those actions. It is a very ambitious piece that at times paints a gorgeous picture both visually and with the emotions and growth (or lack of) of the characters it highlights. The message of the importance of death in realizing the meaning of life is on full display but a few of the ideas seem to sadly get underdeveloped or abandoned along the way in order to stay completely focused on the message. Overall it is a work that attempts to move the viewers by connecting with those in the harshest of conditions using a protagonist who appears to be cursed to observe forever and is limited in how he feels he can change it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Concert Footage, Japanese Ads, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
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Kirenji Girls’ Combat School

A film for those who like their cute girl to be extreme brawlers.

What They Say
Kirenji is so definitely NOT your typical Japanese girls' school. For example, while the word "hot" might describe an attractive girl at other places of higher education, at Kirenji it's more likely to mean "hot blooded," "hot tempered," and "ready for red hot action" - as in physical combat, that is!

When 17-year-old Maki enrolls, thinking she's the baddest bad girl of them all, she quickly learns the hard way that at Kirenji she'll have to punch her way to the top of the shapely power pyramid... and it's just too bad that the equally intimidating Natsumu is standing in her path!

The Review!

Audio:
The only audio present is a Japanese 2.0 track. It is a basic 2.0 track with nothing special to distinguish itself but that also means it has no dropouts or distortions. Dialogue is clean and doesn’t get buried during the presentation.The dialogue is primarily center speaker focused but there is an odd occurrence sometimes when the center of the screen character’s dialogue gets shifted to a side speaker but this is rare.

Video:
The video is presented in 16:9 which is about the only positive other than colors don’t look faded. There is some aliasing and dot crawl to be found but by far the worst problem-which actually covers up some of the other issues-is that there is a blurring to the picture. It almost looks like a 3-D effect without the glasses. This is headache inducing and makes the details of the feature a pain to try to figure out when watching.

Packaging:
The front of the DVD cover has the main three girls front and center with four of the supporting girls in the background behind them. The background is a yellow orange and the logo is at the bottom of the cover bellow the main three characters. The back of the cover has Maki crouching in the lower left with Kirei to the right of her and then Natsumu and the four supporting girls from the cover behind them to the upper right. The background is yellow and orange and there are 6 stills from the feature present. The DVD label has the three main characters standing with their backs turned and they are wearing a different colored jacket that has the name of the school on it.

Menus:
The menu has a static shot of the 7 girls featured on the cover. Maki is in the center with Natsumu on one side and Kirei on the other and then two of the other girls flanking on each side of them. The open plays in the background on the menu screen. The title is above their heads and the selection for parts of the features are under that horizontally. There is a yellow dot that signifies which option is highlighted and the menu is quick to respond to selections.

Extras:
This release contains no extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The feature opens with Maki Ryo going on a fighting spree with some of the toughest thugs in her town. She appears to fight simply for the sake of fighting while trying to find a fighter who can stand up to her. Unable to find any opponent at either her current school or on the street she is simply drifting until she gets asked if she is from Kirenji by a vanquished foe. With a name in hand Maki now sets out to start a new series of fights.
When she arrives she discovers that Kirenji is a girl’s school where every girl there is a delinquent. The feature gives a brief look at some of the girls who populate the school. A look at their interactions shows little in the way of traditional studies but does reveal a little about some of the side characters through a combination of their actions and some text giving their names and a little background. With the exception of Maki however none of the girls introduced this way play a huge role in the feature.

It turns out Maki isn’t the only one looking for a fight as the girls in the school are anticipating the arrival of their new target. The leader of the biggest group of girls is Natsumu Kinami as she is generally believed to be the toughest girl in school and she has set up camp in the classroom. Maki gets a greeting from the principle on her entrance and has the school’s rules explained to her-There are no boys allowed and beyond that anything goes. Maki’s attempt to find the classroom brings her into conflict with her erstwhile new classmates. When Maki finally finds the classroom the girls who great her are no stronger than the ones on the way. Undeterred Maki calls out the strongest girl in the class.

At the same time some of the defeated male gang leaders are discussing her prowess and trying to figure out a way to enact revenge. While they are attempting to lay their plans Natsumu’s past is laid out. She is the daughter of a rich man whose wife died and is always away on business. She has had the best of everything but not the thing she most wants. After a bullying by her classmates she winds up talking with her estranged brother who went down the path of the delinquent himself. Talking with him crystallizes her desire to get back at those who attacked her before and start her new delinquent life which she is quite skilled at and eventually gets her own group.

A return to the present has Maki working her way through that group to get to Natsumu while the male gang from before tries to bring in a ringer who they discover won’t fight but can take a beating. Whether this will be necessary or not remains to be seen as Maki finally confronts Natsumu and Kirei Shindo and sparks fly. Kirei is an orphan who was abandoned by her parents and taught herself fighting skills to survive her experience with bullying and she is the other member of the school contending for the top spot.

The only solution is to have a three way fight by the schools combat challenge rules and see who will reign supreme. Will anyone survive the fight? And if they do will anything be learned from their experience? Plus what will happen when the male gang leaders’ plans come to fruition and they issue a challenge to Maki-will she still have any fighting spirit left in her?

Kirenji Girls’ Combat School is a decent but not special title. Outside the three lead actresses no time is spent really deepening any of the other characters in the feature. Even with the main three most of their time is focused many fight situations and the choreography is average but not anything spectacular. The male gang members only exist to initially set up Maki and then to provide some closure at the end of the feature but most of the time when they appear they are just there to remind everyone that there needs to be a showdown at the end. And outside of the three main women the female members don’t wind up much better.

In Summary:
Kirenji Girls’ Combat School is a feature that has the feel of a production made to appeal to fans of one of the three main girls. It is a feature that is competent in most of the key areas but not special in any except for the disaster that is the video problem. It is a way to pass time for those who want to see pretty girls beating each other mercilessly but won’t stick in the memories of the majority of those who see it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment



Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080

Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: D-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: NA
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Makiriko/Battler Sienne Matra

Average features times 2 still make for an average release.

What They Say
The monsters, maidens and mayhem are out of control as Switchblade Pictures dishes out a double helping of double-breasted demon hunting goodness!

First up: Makiriko, which transposes the perennial anime premise of high-school heroine with a giant sword into live action reality! When sailor-suited warrior Makiriko shows up at a new school, there are two immediate clues that trouble is brewing: 1) the soul sucking demons taking over the student bodies; and 2) the talking green demon thing sitting on her shoulder that tells her trouble is brewing!

Then get ready for babes, blades and bare-chested battles galore as a nubile ninjette in training must confront her treacherous sister student, a possessed demon hand and the even more monstrous monster master to which the hand belongs. Why she thinks a tiny leather bikini is the appropriate garb for this is anyone's guess, but that's why she's Battler Sienne Matra!

Two totally twisted fantasy thrillers on one great Switchblade DVD- because we know you like things that come in pairs!

The Review!
Audio:
The only audio present is a Japanese 2.0 track. It is a basic 2.0 track with nothing special to distinguish itself but that also means it has no drop outs or distortions. Dialogue is clean and doesn’t get buried during the presentation.

Video: The video doesn’t fair as well. There is noticeable grain which fails to cover some color blur, dot crawl and aliasing. The aliasing is especially noticeable in slower motion parts the features are presented in 16:9 so that is a plus for the release.

Packaging:
The packaging features the titles for both features on the left and a collage of the two main characters on the center and right. Setsuna is present with her spirit creature while Matra is placed in the foreground with a shot of her from behind in her leather bikini and her sword poised to strike. The back ground for the front of the cover is a red colored flower pattern. The back has a crouching Setsuna drawing her sword and Matra in a fighting stance with her sword in hand. Also present are 10 stills from the disc split evenly between the two features. The disc itself has Sayaka from Makiriko on the left and Kisara from Matra on the right.
Menus:
The menu is a simple and static affair with the same picture of Setsuna drawing her sword from the back of the cover on the left but there is a new picture of Matra on the right. She is pictured with her red jacket and pants on while holding her sword over her shoulder with her left hand. The upper half of the screen has two screen length grey blocks that contain the individual titles for selection. The menu is quick to respond to changes in selection and the features are prompt to start when selected.
Extras:
This feature contains no extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first feature of the twin bill is Makiriko. The feature opens with a tour around a school after class has let out. The only person around is a young man dribbling a basketball through the halls. He notices something strange about a classroom he is passing and finds himself being yanked off his feet into the room. He tries crawling out while crying for help but to no avail as he is pulled back in. The scene shift to a young woman (Setsuna) elsewhere in the city removing her sword from its sheath as her eyes glow red.

The next morning a young woman (Sayaka Komaki) is walking to school and using her note cards to study English when she comes across Setsuna. Despite trepidation at this strange looking girl Sayaka approaches her and offers to help as Setsuna looks lost. Sayaka helps direct Setsuna toward the school but the odd smile on Setsuna’s face scares her off from walking with her. After Sayaka walks off a green creature appears on Setsuna’s face scolding her because she obviously scared the other woman off.

Sayaka gets to school and the boys in her class are talking about the basketball player who vanished at the start of the feature. As they talk about him the reveal they think he is just out gallivanting around. Any further discussion is interrupted as one of the teachers arrives. He wants to talk to Sayaka as he is her advisor and her grades have been slipping as of late, though his concern is for his own reputation of sending students to prominent schools to at least the same degree as concern for her. He is about to walk away when another young man, Shindo, comes in bouncing a basketball down the hall which sets him after Shindo.

Sayaka sees Shindo practicing in the hall through some windows and falling on a recently washed floor during a self study period later in the day and rushes to see him. It is shown that she has a crush on Shindo and they spend some time talking. During the conversation Shindo talks about how he is now going to be a starter on the basketball team since the disappearance of the boy at the beginning. Shindo is surprised that Sayaka not only knows this but also knows a number of other things relating to the basketball club and him-and isn’t completely pleased about it.

While they were talking Sayaka’s advisor overhears them and assumes Shindo is the reason for Sayaka’s recent lapse in grades. When he frames Shindo for breaking a window and threatens to remove Shindo from the upcoming tournament he suddenly finds himself next on the supernatural target list. When the supernatural creature finally shows itself Setsuna will step in but will she be in time and have the strength to prevent further tragedy?

The second part of the presentation is Battler Sienna Matra. This feature starts with a high tempo song as a young woman wearing tennis shoes and a leather bikini runs through a park throwing shuriken at targets set up by her teacher Hanzo. After seeing her finish he proclaims that he has nothing left to teach her. She asks to learn the final secret art but is warned she only has one chance to beat him and learn it. She discovers her skills are no match for him and some of the sexually harassing ways he implements them. Catching her off guard he knocks her down and declares victory.
While Matra goes home to lick her wounds her master is approached by Kisara who is his former student and Matra’s sister. She had left some time prior for reasons she never shared but has returned to claim the secret art for herself. She has teamed herself with Hanzo’s demonic enemy Grauzas that Hanzo had thought vanquished and gained some of Grauzas’ power for herself. Due to his age and living during a time of peace Hanzo has lost his edge and is defeated by Kisara.

While Kisara and Hanzo fight Matra is attacked by minions of Grauzas and learns of her master’s peril. She attempts to come to his rescue but finds that she is hampered in her ability to fight by her feelings for her sister and the shock she feels over her reappearance. Kisara uses Matra as a hostage to get the secret of the final art out of Hanzo before sending him to the afterlife. Matra gets free and attempts to avenge herself only to be defeated by her previous wounds. With his ancient enemy Hanzo defeated Grauzas finally makes his appearance and lays out his plans. Will Kisara be able to deal with it when everything is revealed and will Matra be able to overcome her situation and avenge her master?

The first title in this feature feels like an average adaption of an anime OVA and a self contained story of mystery and the supernatural that builds up the main character and relies on the mysterious monster hunter to come in at the end and take care of the finale. It is a low budget production that is an average story that is supported by some rather cheap effects. The Spirit Setsuna has looks like the puppet it is and as interesting as the design for the final monster is the lack of budget undercuts the drama at the end. The acting is OK for a piece that looks like it may be a character vehicle for the main two actresses who probably are idols or models of some kind. Battler Sienna Matra could only hope to be an average production. The acting is a step worse, the choreography for the fights is below average and it seems the purpose of the feature is to show off as much skin of the lead actress as the producers thought they could get away with. This is further demonstrated when she spends a good couple minutes essentially topless. When skin is the number one draw of a project it seems odd how tame the feature was in showing it off. And the story line is even skimpier than her leather bikini.
In Summary:
Makiriko/Battle Sienna Matra is at best an average way to pass the time. A couple of average stories with average effects and average acting leads to a product that only those looking for how to make a low budget supernatural film or those who want to ogle the lead in Matra in a leather bikini and topless for a bit. If you aren’t in one of those two categories just keep walking when you see it on the shelf.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

Grade: C-
Audio Rating: C+
Video Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A