Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Mai HiME (2004-2005)

Mai HiME (2004-2005) is a contemporary Japanese snime series where several high school girls must engage in battle to protect the school and save the world. This series contains 26 episodes.

Mai Tokiha and her younger brother, Takumi, have received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Fuuka Academy, a K-12 private school. They take advantage of this opportunity to live better and normal lives. However, rumors spread that there are monsters that lurk in the shadows and cause trouble. Mai realizes that she and twelve other female classmates possess the supernatural powers of HiME (Highly-advanced Materializing Equipment), which allows them to fight the monsters (orphans). Each HiME can materialize their own abilities (elements) and can summon metallic guardians (childs).

Mai learns to adapt to these changes as she tries to take care of her sickly brother and to avoid trouble whenever possible. With two partners (Mikoto Minagi and Natsuki Kuga) by her side, they investigate the origins of HiMEs and an evil organization (Searrs Foundation) is responsible for the creatures appearing on their school grounds. With different personalities and backgrounds, all thirteen girls must determine who they truly care about and why they want to fight. They must survive a deadly game where the loser not only sacrifices her soul but also loses the one they love.

I watched this show several years ago, and it still remains as one of my top ten best anime shows of all time. The main cast are mostly female, and they are smart, funny, and dangerous. The story development, characters' personalities, and action sequences were excellent. While there are some romance and comedy effects, this is a serious show where these destined female characters fight to discover the truth about HiME warriors.

The music is also phenomenal. I still play some of the songs, especially the tracks by the extremely talented composer, Yuki Kaijura. If you have not heard of her, please listen to her music on YouTube! She has produced background songs for many anime shows. Her music is full of energy and emotion, and she even has her own language!

Overall, I highly recommend this show. Although the creators produced another series that is set in an alternate universe (Mai-Otome), Mai-HiMe is considered the better series. This show is available to buy and rent. I also included a bonus track below. Please check it out! Enjoy!

Shining Days - Minami Kuribayashi

Kimi Ga Sora Datta - Aki Misato

Bonus: Mezame - Yuki Kaijura

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: Witch Fury (Elemental Witches #4)

Sarafina Connell is having the worst week of her life. It takes an even darker turn when an infamous playboy kidnaps her and reveals a world she never knew existed....

It's a world where magick is real, and where Sarafina is given a chance to join a secret cabal that is bent on gaining absolute power. They could use a woman like her -- a witch with an untapped gift fo creating fire. But she isn't about to get in league with the devil...."

Witch Fury, by Anya Bast, is the fourth book in the Elemental Witches series. After burying her beloved foster mother in Kentucky, Sarafina returns to Chicago where she can live a normal life and forget about her tormented childhood memories. Before she can grieve, her life changes forever when Duskoff International CEO and heartthrob, Stefan Faucheaux, kidnaps her and her dog, Gossett, from her home. The warlock tells Sarafina that she has a powerful, untapped gift – she is a fire witch. Initially, she laughed because she thought he was insane but she began to make the connection when her biological mother died in a fiery blaze. She also meets an Atrika daemon named Bai who wants something precious from her.

Meanwhile, a group of witches storm into the house where she was held captive. Theo Winters, the group leader, takes Sarafina with her as a prisoner, whom he assumes is a warlock. They return to the Chicago coven, the witches’ headquarters, where Sarafina informed her hosts of Stefan’s plans and the Atrika daemons. The coven witches panic because daemons should not have the ability to travel between Earth and Eudae (daemon world). Worse, aaemon magick (the elemental witches) has no effect on daemons. Their only weakness is copper, and their blood is acidic on human contact.

Thomas Monahan, the coven leader, orders Theo to guard and train Sarafina. She meets the other witches and gradually gains control of her untapped power. When she volunteers to spy on Stefan, Theo almost loses his mind. Over time, he has developed sexual and romantic feelings for her, but he fears getting close to her because his previous two lovers suffered horrible deaths. Can he gain the confidence to tell Sarafina his true feelings, or will he lose her forever to Stefan and his Atrika bodyguards?

I really enjoyed this novel, especially last few chapters. I was hesitant to read this novel because the third novel disappointed me with bad plot development and poor pacing. Nevertheless, Bast's talent emerged in this story with action, comedy, and suspense. The sexual imagery was intense and realistic. Despite the loss throughout the plot, it tied up loose ends and finished on a positive note. I feel glad that I picked this author last year.

Sadly, this is the final installment in the Elemental Witches series. Overall, this was an excellent series. I enjoyed reading about Mira (Witch Fire), Isabelle (Witch Blood), Claire (Witch Heart), and Sarafina (Witch Fury). Each woman brought their own unique experiences to the coven. Their lovers (Jack, Thomas, Adam, and Theo. respectively) also become better men. I highly recommend this series.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Series: Being Human (BBC)

I recently discovered a new British television drama series that will interest paranormal fans of all ages. There are a total of three seasons. The first season premiered in 2009.

Being Human is about the extraordinary lives of three twenty-somethings and their secret double-lives as a vampire (Mitchell), a werewolf (George), and a ghost (Annie). They struggle to hide their dark secrets and live normal lives in the city of Bristol. Meanwhile, danger is always lurking when a vampire leader wants to kill Mitchell, and a group of religious zealots wants to rid the world of all monsters.

I just watched the first season, and I am completely hooked! I will need to watch the second season to follow the trio's next challenge. The show is modern, simple, and witty. There is less focus on special effects and more emphasis on what it is like to be human. Although the main cast realizes they are "monsters" from a paranormal perspective, they want to repent and regain their humanity.

The third season will premiere on July 24 at 10:00pm EST on the BBC America Channel. It is now available for purchase on DVD.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: Song in the Dark (Vampire Files #11)

Going through a difficult recovery from a near-fatal clash with a sadistic gangster, Jack's unwillingly drawn into solving a brutal murder at the Nightcrawler Club. But that's nothing compared to the death sentence hanging over him. There's no escaping gangland "justice," especially when it comes from Whitey Kroun--a mob kingpin who can scare even a vampire!

Song in the Dark, the eleventh book in the Vampire Files series, has Jack Fleming, vampire club owner of Lady Crymsyn, taking care of his injured friend's (Gordy Weems) nightclub, The Nightcrawler. Before he can recuperate his life, he must deal with several mob business, which involves his life and other new characters, who often annoy his mood. The New York mobs want to know how he survived a horrifying punishment that would have killed any normal human being. They also want to know how he killed the man (Hog Bristow) who tortured him. The people back in New York don't like what happened to Bristow, but Jack manages to leave without any threats or executions. However, his life becomes more complicated.

Some bodyguards ("muscle") don't like the fact he controls Gordy's business. Although Jack Fleming is 37 years old, he looks much younger because he is immortal. He has several people on his watch: Alan Caine, a New York stage singer who has a habit for upsetting the wrong people; Mitchell, muscle who used to work for Morelli, the same mob boss who tried to kill Jack (Bloodlist) nearly a year ago; and the whereabouts on child kidnapper, Hirley Gilbert Dugan, remain unknown (see Cold Streets) despite the ongoing reward for his capture. This supporting cast helps him live his life as normal and safe as possible: Bobbi Symthe, stage entertainer and Jack's girlfriend; Charles Escott, British private agent and best friend; Shoe Coldfield, black ganglord of Chicago's Bronze Belt; and Myrna, the resident club ghost of Lady Crymsyn.

Although Jack Fleming survived the severe torture, his body has not completely healed from that event. The physical scars are still visible on his body. He has sporadic seizures and headaches where vanishing does little to ease the pain. His thirst for blood is uncontrollable, including his increasing desire for human blood. He doesn't need individuals, such as Mitchell, to reappear from the past and bring back haunting memories. Meanwhile, a couple are found dead and someone is on the trail to kill more. Will Jack be able to solve this murder mystery before all of Chicago tries to hunt him down? Will he also be able to overcome his panic attacks?

I finally finished this book. Who would have ever thought a vampire could have such mental breakdowns and ruthless enemies? The ending is spectacular! I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but if Elrod decides to write another book in this series, that character just has to be in it!!! Spoiler alert: Who would have thought that Jack Fleming would meet another vampire?

I really enjoyed this novel because I gained a better understanding of how mobs run their businesses. I also learned the hierarchical structure and what happens to members who disobey authority. Readers will also get to see a more vulnerable Jack Fleming, who contemplates suicide as a possibility to end the panic attacks and hellish nightmares. Plus, the entire cast is involved with some new people from the first book, Bloodlist. It just makes me want to read it all over again.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to Elrod fans and those who have never picked up a Vampire Files novel. This series contains a lot of action, comedy, mystery and suspense. Plus, it takes place in 1930s Chicago! If you have not visited Chicago, please visit! You will also learn American pop-culture history on the side. If you're looking for a paranormal mystery series with nightlife and mobs, this is definitely the book for you.

Stay tuned for the twelfth novel in the Vampire Files series, Dark Road Rising.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Twilight Parody: "Vampire Sucks" Premieres August 18, 2010

It has finally leaked. Vampire Sucks, a parody of the Twilight Saga series, will premiere in theaters on August 18, 2010. I highly recommend watching the three Twilight films before you see this movie. It is now available for purchase on DVD. Here is the trailer:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Love Song for a Vampire" by Annie Lennox (Music Video)

I recently watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and listened to the song that was playing during the credits. It is difficult to believe this movie premiered nearly twenty years ago. Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves were emerging stars in their movie careers. Dracula, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, still remains one of the best vampire movies of all time.

This is “Love Song for a Vampire” (1993) by the synthpop-rock diva, Annie Lennox. She is a Scottish singer, who was also a member of the band, The Eurythmics. In the video, she wears a long white dress in a dark and gloomy garden. Various scenes from the movie play in the background. I love this song because it captures the film’s mood and forbidden love between Count Dracula and Mina. Annie Lennox has always been captivating throughout her career. Her image is mystical and confident.

You can find the lyrics to the song in the link below.

Come into these arms again
and lay your body down
The rhythm of this trembling heart
is beating like a drum
It beats for you it bleeds for you
it knows not how it sounds
For it is the drum of drums
it is the song of songs

Once I had the rarest rose
that ever deemed to bloom
Cruel winter chilled the bud
and stole my flower too soon
Oh loneliness Oh hopelessness
to search the ends of time
For there is in all the world
no greater love than mine.

Love o love o .... still falls the rain
Love o love o .... still falls the night
Love o love o .... damned forever

Let me be the only one
to keep you from the cold
Now the floor of heaven is laid
the stars are bright as gold
They shine for you they shine for you
they burn for all to see
Come into these arms again
and set this spirit free

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: Kemonozume (2006)

Kemonozume (2006) is a graphic action Japanese anime that takes place in contemporary Japan. It adopts an unorthodox animation style that symbolizes the show’s freakish and jagged storyline. It contains thirteen episodes. Viewer discretion is advised (violence, indecent exposure and blood).

The descendants of ancient cannibal monsters, the Shokujinki, survive by eating the flesh of humans. Their hands turn into beast claws. They can assume human form and live in the shadows while they hunt. A group of skilled swordsmen, the Kifuuken, is responsible for slaying these monsters. Toshihiko Momota, the son of the organization’s leader, falls in love with a woman named Yuka. However, trouble arises in this forbidden romance when it is revealed that she is a Shokujinki. Their relationship becomes more complicated when Toshihiko vows to protect Yuka from his own clan.

When I watched this show several years ago, I thought it was weird. The animation style was intriguing and repulsive. The plot was scary and genius. The characters are thrown into chaos and hell as they try to defeat the unstoppable villain. meanwhile the two main characters believe in the power of love to overcome their different worlds.

This show is also not for the faint of heart. It has several elements: bloodshed, nudity, violence, and gore. I would rate this show under the label, NC-17, which means no one under 17 years of age should watch it. If you are looking for material related to monsters, I recommend this show. Its unconventional animation makes it a worthy consideration.

Due to the violent nature of this show, it has not been licensed in North America.

"Auvers Blue" by Katteni Shiyagare

"Suki" by Santara

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review: Eclipse (2010)

Eclipse (2010) is the third film in the Twilight Saga, a teen paranormal novel series by Stephanie Meyer. It takes place in contemporary Forks, Washington.

Mysterious murders and disappearances haunt the city of Seattle. Edward Cullen and his family suspect that a new vampire is creating a new army of newborns (recently turned vampires who have an uncontrollable thirst for blood). Meanwhile, Bella Swan is preparing for high school graduation. The change is also near -- she agreed to turn into a vampire after she marries Edward a year later. She wishes to see her friend and werewolf, Jacob Black. Fearing for her safety, Edward hesitantly allows her to visit Jacob, knowing that the wolf pack will not harm her. During her visits, she learns the history of the wolf pack's encounter with the "cold ones" (vampires) in the region. Rosalie Cullen also warns her about the costs of becoming a vampire. She she would be eternally frozen in time and desire one thing most of all -- blood.

During a graduation party, Alice Cullen receives a vision that Victoria, a vampire who wants to kill Bella, has returned to Forks. She is responsible for the new army of newborns, who are committing the Seattle murders. The Cullens and werewolf pack join forces to defeat Victoria and her new minions. She has passed around Bella's scent so that they know who to target and kill. As everyone prepares for the important battle, Edward, Bella, and Jacob camp in the mountains. Flood of teen emotions emerge: Jacob expresses his love for Bella. While she wants to marry Edward, she is also in love with Jacob. At this time, Bella's uncertainty becomes obvious. When Jacob hears the news about the marriage, he runs away to join the rest of the pack. He is heartbroken over Bella's decision to turn into a vampire.

Can Bella love two men at once? Does she want to change into a vampire? Will Victoria finally avenge her lover's death?

Eclipse continues the story of 18-year-old Bella Swan and her vampire love, Edward Cullen. Eclipse is preceded by New Moon and followed by Breaking Dawn. I had the unique opportunity to watch this film almost entirely by myself in the movie theaters. I thought this film was better than New Moon. It had a suspenseful plot that delivered good action in the end. Although this film is made for teen audiences, young adults will enjoy the serious undertones.

The storyline focused mostly on the core love triangle: Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Her high school friends had minor parts in the film and were never seen again. The Cullens and werewolves finally collaborated together once they realized they had a common enemy. I was most impressed with Jasper Hale's acting. He had such minor roles in previous films that he truly shined in this installment. Audiences learned his history (Civil War-era), and his encounters with newborns. It was nice to see him as a hero for a change.

Bella has a lot to ponder. She wants to make everyone else happy, but hasn't really focused on her own feelings until now. She loves two men, but she can only be with one. The question now is who will it be in the next film?

Stay tune for the next film in this popular series, Breaking Dawn. It tentative release date is November 18, 2011. Stay tuned for more updates.

Watch the full trailer below: