I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. It certainly feels like the holiday season. Deadlines you have to meet at work before the end of the year, getting down those eight crates of random festival garb from your attic, ordering gift cards for people you’ll never see until this time next year, and an expensive gift for your father who will probably only provide you with expired wits of wisdom. I think it’s high time you, the reader, get something for yourself. I don’t mean a new pair of socks or some non-alcoholic eggnog. Something worthwhile, like a wonderful Shout Factory Anime Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray or 4K set. Today we are looking at the Masaaki Yuasa Five Films Box Set as well as the 4K Edition of Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time. These gorgeous box sets can be yours today and provide you with more hours of enjoyment than any Christmas Party with second, third, and fourth (twice-removed) cousins ever could. Let’s take a look..
Evangelion: 3.0+1.11 Thrice Upon a Time 4K Collector’s Edition
To start off the movie, we get a recap of the first three movies very quickly (so fast that attempting to summarize that here would take longer than the actual review).
We pick up the action in Paris, a Wille organization team led by Maya Ibuki (voiced by Miki Nagasawa) is working to restore the city to its previous state. All of the sudden Nerv forces attack the group until the Wunder fleet and Mari Illustrious Makinami (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto) step in. After some wonderful visuals and some back and forth, Mari is able to bring down the Nerv forces. The restoration team is able to put the city back in an operational form.
After the traumatic events of Evangelion 3.0, Asuka (voiced by Yuko Miyamura), Rei Ayanami (but not the actual Ayanami; a clone that has assumed the name) (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara), and Shinji Ikari (voiced by Megumi Ogata and Ryunsouke Kamiki) are walking the outskirts of Tokyo-3. The arrive at a settlement and engage with Toji Suzuhara (voiced by Tomokazu Seki), who is a doctor and is married to Hikari (last name formerly Horaki) (voiced by Junko Iwao). Also they encounter Kensuke Aida (voiced by Tetsuya Iwanaga), who is a technician.
Rei Ayanami has never dealt with civilian life before and is exposed to all sort of phrases and social cues from the people around her. She goes to work as a farmer, and while she learns quickly, she is still having trouble adapting to this sort of existence. Ayanami also needs constant exposure to LCL and cannot maintain herself properly, and she reveals her deterioration in Shinji’s presence.
While Rei is trying to adjust, Shinji is doing the exact opposite and has lost his will to live. He doesn’t talk to anyone, he refuses to eat, and instead stares into his lap, muttering to himself. At one point, Asuka force-feeds him just so he gets some nourishment and doesn’t get worse. Eventually Shinji opens up to Asuka and starts eating again. After Ayanami’s revelation of her eventual demise, it finally jump-starts him into not feeling so sorry for himself.
However, time for civilian life for Asuka and Shinji seems to soon be at an end. Asuka rejoins the Wunder, preparing for the final battle. Shinji is urged by both Kensuke and Toji to stay in the settlement and continue to mend. But he decides not to listen and rejoins Asuka on the Wunder but gets tasered for his efforts. Shinji is put under isolation and surveillance. The question now becomes, is the team ready for the final battle, and will they overcome the Nerv forces once and for all?
Even though I am fairly new to the Evangelion series, I certainly can’t deny the infectious nature of the story that’s presented. It’s an honest one, with layers and some really interesting characters that isn’t all pew-pew big machines fighting (though there is plenty of that as well), especially for the first half of the movie. Once it moves to the action, there are some great visuals and plenty of what most fans are looking for.
The 4K disc is utterly fantastic. Housed on a BD-100, the image never suffers for a second and is simply breathtaking. This is on the level of Belle on 4K, which to me was the best-looking 4K, animated disc of 2022. Audio is anything but a slouch either including 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks in both native Japanese and English tracks. Subtitles also have four options, English SDH, English for Original Language, Spanish and French. At minimal levels, this sucker sounds loud and bombastic. The action scenes are simply phenomenal, but there is also wonderful use of surrounds during the settlement scenes that we begin the film with. It’s a great contrast and keeps the viewers engaged for the entire two and a half hours.
This LE has the 4K disc as mentioned above. Then there is a Blu-ray companion disc which is the same movie as the 4K (but useful if you have a portable Blu-ray player, or the teenager in your family wants to borrow it). Finally there is a special third bonus disc, which has almost two hours of material. It is divided into three “special” parts.
Under Special 01, we get an assortment of Teasers, Trailers, two more additional trailers, and a smattering of TV spots. We also get an updated trailer for 3.333 and a Promotional Reel for SNS, the last of which is a collection of promotional ads that found their way to social media. This was based on all sorts of footage from the trailers and the movie itself.
Under Special 02, we get some brief Character Promotional Reels and also a current Evangelion promo. Then we get a section called Message for Kinro. These were audio messages broadcast after the second postponement of the movie release assumedly due to COVID and the state of emergency. Another audio section follows called Message for ANN, which were recordings broadcasted during the Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time All Night Nippon.
Under Special 03, we start off with Stage Greetings, which comes from April 11th, 2021 and was held at the Shinjuku Wald 9 cinema. It runs about 17 minutes long. Then we get another assortment of trailers, this time showcasing their MX4D and 4DX offerings. I can only imagine how amazing these films must have been in 4D. We then get a featurette on the Rebuild of Evangelion as well. Moving on we get a feature called Evangelion: 3.0 (~46min) which was specifically created for this package. This is available in 5.1 and 2.0 stereo. Following that up, we get Evangelion: 3.0 (~120min) which is essentially comic book footage from the manga of the same name. Finally, we cap off this disc with a TV Spot and Promotional Reel of the new 3.0+1.11 release. A tremendous package before we even get to the physical extras.
In addition to the three discs that are housed in a digibook (which fit nicely into the overall LE box), we first get a booklet that has about 25 pages of material. If that weren’t enough, we also get a nice poster and an assortment of five lobby-type cards highlighting various characters from the movie. Those cards also get a nice envelope to store them (provided you aren’t coming up with some frame to display them). The LE box mentioned above is this really simple but elegant white box that really feels like a collector’s piece when you hold it. It’s a great piece for Evangelion ,or even simply those like me who greatly enjoy seeing animation in 4K resolution. This set is such a treat.
Masaaki Yuasa: Five Films Collector’s Edition
Mind Game (2004)
A yakuza guy only known as Aniki (short for “brother”) (voiced by Rintaro Nishi) is waiting in his car with fellow member, Atsu (voiced by Keni’ichi Chujo) in the back seat. All of a sudden in their rear view mirror they see a girl on foot. They exclaim “That’s her!”, as Atsu leaves the car and runs after her. The girl, known as Myon (voiced by Sayaka Maeda) runs to the subway and heads for a cab door. However, as she jumps through the sliding door, her last foot gets caught. Let’s hit those funky credits.
Nishi (voiced by Koji Imada) has had a crush on Myon ever since they were children. He even goes as far as to say to her that they should get married. But the problem is that Myon is with another man named Ryo (voiced by Tomomitsu Yamaguchi), who is actually employed and can take care of her. Despite the closeness he has felt with Myon, Nishi still doubts himself and is too unconfident to fully proclaim his love for her.
Myon and Nishi go to their family diner where Myon’s older sister, Yan (voiced by Seiko Takuma) and her father work. There they meet Ryo, but Nishi stays quiet, sitting sheepishly at the corner of the front counter. All of the sudden, Aniki and Atsu come into the bar demanding to see the father, who has disappeared. Atsu accuses the missing father of skipping town and enjoying World Cup tickets, having fun with Atsu’s girlfriend.
Myon tells Atsu to stop right now or else she will call the police. Atsu gets a little handsy with Myon, and she punches him hard, staggering the yakuza member. Atsu proceeds to pull out a gun, and Ryo steps up to defend his girlfriend. He promptly gets pistol-whipped and rendered unconscious for his troubles.
Meanwhile Nishi is still cowering in the corner. Atsu turns again his attention to Myon and goes way too far with her, prompting Myon to scream out for Nishi. Atsu turns his attention on the terrified Nishi and proceeds to hold him at gunpoint in a most unfortunate manner. There Nishi meets his end, but it’s the not the end of the story, is it? Love always deserves a second chance.
The rest of the movie is all about that second chance. It’s a very surreal film that has to be seen to be believed. It has an unique visual style that blends animation with a sort of quasi-live-action visuals at key points and then back again. The audience develops a relationship with Nishi, Myon, and Yan to the point where we are rooting for them to escape from their predicament but also lead a fulfilling life that surpasses any dreams they might have had growing up. The phrase, “This Story Has Never Ended” appears right before the credits roll and speaks to how the main characters live out their lives.
This first disc in this collection sports 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD audio with a pristine picture and has English, Spanish and French subtitles. It has a few extras on this disc including some Production Artwork Galleries which include almost an hundred different pictures reflecting Background Designs, Character Designs, and more. There is also an entire film animatic which offers a rather unique way to see the movie on your second or third viewing. Finally, there are some selected scenes with the director’s commentary and trailers to round out this wonderful first disc.
The Night is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)
(Parts of this come from my 2019 Review – https://upcomingdiscs.com/2019/02/01/the-night-is-short-walk-on-girl-blu-ray/)
We visit a restaurant. A girl with black hair (voiced by Kana Hanazawa) is drinking with her friends. She stares endlessly into a bowl of soup until it turns into a bunch of eyeballs, and then we hear a train whistle. The girl wishes to be out on the town instead of watching time pass. The scene moves to another table where we meet Senpai (voiced by Gen Hoshino), a teenager obsessed with the girl with black hair. The School Executive Festival Head (voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya) confronts Senpai with this accusation, but he denies it.
But Senpai is obsessed. He’s so obsessed that he’s spent every waking moment trying to “run into” the girl at every turn. This is what he has referred to as Phase One. Phase Two will be the moment when he can actually sit with her. Another friend at the table, Don Underwear (voiced by Ryuji Akiyama) proclaims that to be not romantic as he continues to wolf down some food.
Soon the girl with black hair departs from her friends and heads outside to another bar. There she orders a pina colada and other drinks as well. This continues until a gentleman, Todo-san (voiced by Kazuhiro Yamaji), notices her at the bar and then talks to her about the many different types of alcohol, including one named Imitation Denki Bran. Meanwhile Senpai, who has also made his way outside, is being kidnapped and then thrown into a black bag.
Back at the bar, Todo-san tells the girl that she reminds him of his daughter. He then gets a little handsy with the girl, which earns a very friendly punch to his face. The girl finds two more people, Higuchi (voiced by Kazuya Nakai) and Hanuki (voiced by Yuko Kaida), at the bar, who are appreciative of her actions towards the pervert. Apparently, they enjoy their time crashing other parties and getting free drinks. So the girl with the black hair decides to join them, and they go to the next party.
Meanwhile, Senpai is in the middle of the street with no underwear. He then finds himself forced to make a trade with Todo-san for underwear as long as he listens to the pervert’s tales of woe. This is going from bad to worse, so thankfully we go back to the girl and her two new friends, who have found a party to crash. There she finds silly arguments and perhaps even sillier dances to watch and enjoy.
It is here, however, that the girl with black hair hears about a 60th birthday party, which seems a perfect way to enjoy even more alcohol for free. This night is just beginning, and it won’t end any time soon.
Most of the story is spent with the girl going from locale to locale and getting involved deeper and deeper into the events around her. Senpai plays a prominent role as he tries to win over the girl of his dreams. The story has such an interesting concept, and it really picks up once we hit what is known as the Used Book Market. The characters, particularly the Girl, Higuchi, and Hanuki, are fun to watch with their interactions and provide much of the charm present through the film. At times, it certainly feels similar to some college nights I took part in, and at other times, it’s more surreal and extreme than any dream I’ve ever had.
This second disc comes with a new English dub in addition to the previous Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Subtitles are included for English (both SDH and Original Language) as well as French. There is a short interview with Masaaki Yuasa as well as a bunch of theatrical trailers to round out this disc.
Lu Over the Wall (2017)
(Parts of this come from my 2019 Review – https://upcomingdiscs.com/2019/02/15/lu-over-the-wall-blu-ray/)
A boy taps his fingers next to a microphone for an Internet streaming session as we read the comments below his video. There seems to be a lot of interest below his post including the potential for some band-mates should he ever want to expand his horizons. We soon meet the boy named Kai (voiced by Shota Shimoda) as he shuffles downstairs to have breakfast with his grandpa and father.
The family asks him about his summer, and he tells them that he’s attending school and a few other activities. They also warn him about the merfolk and tell Kai to stay away from the water. Kai walks to school and is joined by a pretty girl named Yuho (voiced by Minako Kotobuiki) and another boy named Kunio (voiced by Soma Saito).
Yuho and Kunio ask Kai if he is in a band. Kai, who obviously loves music, pushes it to the side and says that it is just a hobby. They tell him about the two-person band they currently have in SEIREN and that they practice secretly at Merfolk Island. After school and checking out the mail, he gets back on his computer to read about the legends behind the Merfolk Island. In the background, we hear something in the water, but when Kai turns around, it is no longer there.
Kai decides that he should go to the island with his friends to be part of SEIREN. Kunio and Yuho show off the area, and they start practicing. From the outset, Kai is criticizing how they perform, particularly with Yuho’s singing. Yuho stops, and then we hear a singing voice coming from the water. Kai investigates, and he soon sees a mermaid in the water singing.
We are introduced to Lu (voiced by Kanon Tani), the curious and heartwarming mermaid. She grows legs when she hears music, and her personality is infectious. Kai, who had been gloomy and depressing to this point, suddenly wants his music to be heard everywhere. He starts caring a lot for Lu, but unfortunately this does not come without its share of consequences.
This movie is quite beautiful and excellently acted. The growth of the main characters are fascinating as well as certain subplots that tell us a wonderfully crafted story. I think I might have enjoyed especially the relationship between Lu and her dad (voiced by Shinichi Shinohara), but that could be the dad in me talking. The movie also shows a good contrast of how the town reacts to the stories they hear even though what’s taking place before them is very different.
I thought this movie was a lot more accessible than Night is Short, Walk on Girl. It is a gorgeous movie, full of life and has a relationship between the two characters that I’m not sure I would describe as romantic, but perhaps something much more powerful, as Lu is giving Kai the gift of living life. A relationship that has to be seen in order to be understood.
On this third disc, similar to Night is Short, Walk On Girl, we get English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. There is also a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track along with subtitles in English (SDH and Original Language) and French. We get an audio commentary with the filmmakers, another interview with Masaaki Yuasa and the usual trailers and TV spots to round this one out.
Ride Your Wave (2019)
A girl named Hinako (voiced by Rina Kawaei) loves the waves and has moved to a small town to study oceanography at the local college. In her spare time, she surfs at the beach. On this occurrence, she is watched by two young men, Minato Hinageshi (voiced by Ryota Katayose) and Wasabi Kawamura (voiced by Kentaro Ito). Both guys are impressed with her surfing ability, and Minato wishes to spend some time with her.
When she’s not surfing, Hinako is living in a small residence, surrounded by cardboard boxes. She has trouble even making meals without one of the boxes falling and hitting her. Hinageshi and Kawamura are junior firefighters for the small town, and apparently Hinageshi also makes a mean Omurice (a Japanese rice omelet).
On a chance encounter, Minato is training with his fellow firemen when Hinako comes along looking for directions. Minato flirts with Hinako, and she is receptive to his charms. Eventually, the junior firefighter has to return to work, and the two depart.
Later, at the building where Hinako lives, a group of unruly youths detonate illegal professional fireworks. This starts a massive fire, and Hinako tries to find a way out. Minato and Wasabi along with the other firemen come to the scene to help put out the blaze. By this point, Hinako makes her way to the roof, as that’s the only direction she can go safely. Out of nowhere, Minato ascends to the roof in the firefighters’ cherry picker to save her.
Despite getting yelled at by his superiors for using the cherry picker in such a fashion, the reward is that Hinako wants to spend more time with Minato, and they make plans go on a date. She is willing to teach him how to surf, and he decides to share his cooking tips. This is the start of a beautiful relationship, and much like the Omurice, a romance that is certain to bloom. However, what seems to be a fairy tale romance may very well contain tragedy. The real story is how those who are left behind have to deal with that loss.
I’m not sure if this film or Lu Over the Wall is my favorite of the set, but this is certainly an incredible film. It’s an amazing romance from start to finish and has some breathtaking scenes (makes me really wish for a 4K). The characters are all enjoyable to watch, including Minato’s sister, Yoko (voiced by Honoka Matsumoto) who is tough as nails, but cares immensely for her brother and others that surround her.
This is also the perfect film for newcomers to Maasaki Yuasa‘s style before diving into the more exotic of the director’s productions. Every one loves a gentle romance, and this is one of the best films (animated or live-action) of that type I have ever seen.
This fourth disc is no slouch technically, either. Again, with a Japanese and English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio tracks, the audio is some of the best I have ever heard. The crashing of the waves, the music (which is very important to the movie as well), and the fireworks will make fantastic use of your surround speakers. There are four subtitle options for this one in English (SDH and Original Language), French, and Spanish. There is a small list of extras to this one including some animatics, a picture gallery, an interview with Eunyoung Choi, who was a producer on the film, and some trailers to finish off this disc.
As we open this story, we are introduced to our narrator, a withered biwa player who strums a tale that comes from very long time ago. It seems that there were two emperors, both declaring themselves as rulers. It was determined that the court with the three sacred treasures would be the true court and able to rule all. One of those entities, the Imperial Regalia defeat the rival Heike clan at the Battle of Dan-no-ura where one of those sacred treasures, the Grasscutter Sword, was lost in the ocean.
Three hundred years later, we are introduced to Tomona (voiced by Mirai Moriyama), who is swimming deep in the ocean, looking for something. He struggles to remove whatever he sees on the ocean floor, but can’t quite get it. Eventually he has to return to the surface for air, where he runs to see his father. His father (voiced by Yutaka Matsushige) is speaking with representatives of the Ashikaga shogunate about retrieving the Grasscutter Sword. It’s been seen in a dream, covered in clay, in a bag, and then sealed in a box. It would appear that Tomona knows where to find such a treasure.
Tomona and his father soon reach their destination and dive down to get the treasure. Just as the dream said it is there underneath the clay, sealed in a box. They bring it back to the boat. However, the father does not realize exactly what the item is and unsheathes the sword too quickly. The resulting blow slices his stomach and simultaneously blinds his son. The father dies, and Tomona is blind while the representatives run away. Somewhere, a mother cries.
Later, we rejoin Tomonam, who spends his time in the forest doing chores and searching for answers. He is able to speak to his father, who is now a ghost. Eventually he meets a troupe of biwa players who want to teach him how to play. He joins the troupe and changes his name to “Tomoichi”, which has the after effect of alienating the spirit of his father.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a Noh dance troupe leader (voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda) who is in conflict with the biwa players. He has two sons who he is teaching to follow in his footsteps, but the third is not present. The third son is elsewhere and has three stubby limbs, an elongated arm, scales, and a deformed face. The son’s name is Inu-Oh (voiced by Avu-chan), and he is forced to wear a mask and treated like a dog as he eats from a bowl.
One day, as the troupe leader is teaching his two other sons the Noh Dance, Inu-Oh practices out of view the same dance. It magically restores his legs, and he is able to walk to the town where he eventually meets Tomoichi, thus beginning a wonderful friendship that will change everything.
The concept behind the rest of the movie is that these two form a bond through music and dance. That music can be best described as glam metal as we witness a rock opera that is perhaps unlike anything I have ever seen when it comes to anime. It takes over the film, and what we get are a series of concerts which delight their audience and allow Inu-Oh after performing new dances to alter those traits that prevented him from being seen as human by the people around him.
It’s a wonderful film that’s actually based on a book by Hideo Furukawa named Tales of the Heikie: Inu-Oh. There are some wonderful performances, and the concerts feel like someone watched a whole bunch of Queen and Freddie Mercury. The songs sound quite similar to We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Inu-Oh also holds a strong similarity to Freddie himself, and that voice is clearly other-worldly. It’s a great use of sound and changes it from a simple folk tale to a grandiose rock opera.
The final movie disc before we get to the Bonus Material has the usual English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. However, this particular disc also has an English DVS 5.1 track, which might even help those who aren’t visually impaired. There are also English SDH, English Original and Spanish subtitle tracks. The extras are also quite numerous: another lengthy Maasaki Yuasa interview and also an extended feature of him drawing Inu-Oh too. There is also a Q&A at the US Premiere and some scene breakdown worth watching. Finally, the usual trailers and teasers are contained here to peruse through. But we are not done with the extra material by a long shot. Let’s proceed directly to the…
We are certainly not done, however, and we get a bonus sixth disc that has roughly three hours of extra material to enjoy. It is broken up in two sections, Bonus 1 and Bonus 2.
Bonus 1 is composed of scene breakdowns for Mind Game, Lu Over the Wall, The Night is Short, Walk On Girl and Ride Your Wave. Then the second section has a few character drawings for Mind Game and Lu Over the Wall. That alone would be enough for some, but we have even more coming up in the next section.
Bonus 2’s first section is entitled shorts. The first short is known as Happy Machine and is about fifteen minutes long and was made in 2007. I actually remember reviewing it as a part of Genius Party / Genius Party Beyond. Its style is very reminiscent of Mind Game, which infuses animation with some quasi-live-action shots. Basically, a baby finds out that the world beyond the comfort of his mother’s arms is a frightening thing and tries to survive until safety is found.
The second short, Kick-Heart, is nearly thirteen minutes long and came out in 2013. It follows a wrestler known as Mask Man M who falls in love with his opponent, Lady S, during a tag match. No matter how many times he tries, he has to face Lady S’s tag team partner, or his own partner gets the honors of facing her. Despite all of this, somehow Mask Man M is still able to win the match. The boss is upset, since Mask Man M was supposed to take the fall. But there is a chance for redemption as Lady S wishes to face Mask Man M in a 50 million yen death match but he has to take the fall. It’s an odd love story draped in the setting of the wrestling world. I really enjoyed this one and very much. It was fleshed out to a longer feature.
The second section of Bonus 2 has some random featurettes including a Q&A at the American Cinematheque regarding Mind Game, and then a very interesting feature called A Night Out with Masaaki Yuasa. Yuasa takes his interpreter out to what looks like an American bar to sample the specials and talk about a variety of topics. Very down-to-earth and perhaps the most interesting feature on this disc. The last feature, Shop Talk, is a question-and-answer session as we explore the process of how Yuasa works and creates.
Moving on to the physical aspects of this box set, we get six discs nestled inside a digibook. Then there is an 60-page art/history type book which goes over all of his films and shorts with some great pictures and insightful information. There is also a poster which has art from the box that’s suitable for framing. This all fits nicely into the outer box and isn’t too snug or too loose. Really a wonderful piece to enjoy for years to come.
I can only hope that we see more features from this animation legend down the road. Maybe in ten to fifteen years I will get to hold Masaaki Yuasa: Five More Films or something along those lines.
These two sets from Shout Factory will be sure to delight audiences for a long time. They are perfect for the holiday season to give to the anime lover in your family. Or perhaps to give to yourself for getting your shopping done at least a day or two early. Seriously, I have a number of movie collector’s sets from over the years. The problem is, I tend to buy them and then they sit, usually at the top of the shelf, and gather dust for years to come. I never had that hesitation when it came to either of these two sets. I wanted to dive right in, rip off the shrink wrap, and put in the first disc. Thankfully, I was rewarded with two fantastic collections of movies. Those collections can now be yours for the holiday season. Enjoy.