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DJ Supply

'Anime Collection: 3 Complete Series'
(3-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / (2008-2009) 2018 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Imagine a world where dreams come true ... and magic is real! Out now, via Mill Creek Entertainment is this wondrous collection of Merlin tales to cast their spells over you: 'Merlin' (1998), 'Merlin: The Return' (2000), and 'Merlin's Apprentice' (2006).

DVD Verdict: In the first tale, 'Kurozuka' (2008) a 12th-century man, flees into the mountains after losing to his brother, where he meets a strange, beautiful woman named Kuromitsu. Kuro falls in love with Kuromitsu but realizes she conceals a dark secret. She is unable to die and continues to live for thousands of years as Japan evolves into a future society.

This show had a lot of promise. The premise was interesting and the show was pretty mysterious. Viewers are always at the edge of understanding what is going on and why. Every time one secret is revealed it leads to another question.

I really enjoy shows like that pull you in. The design of the show is excellent too. The art is beautiful and the animation well done (though they do cut a few corners here and there it's not distracting).

The problems involve the story telling style and the characters. The tale unfolds through current events, flashbacks, dream sequences, and hallucinations, and it can be terribly confusing because there's no mechanism to clue viewers in to just where and when any particular scene is taking place.

More than a few times I was wondering what was going on, only to realize later that the confusing scene happened some undetermined time in the past. On top of that, the creators did a poor job of establishing their characters. Kuro falls in love with Kuromitsu after a brief conversation and is willing to search for her for the rest of eternity. Why? Is it just love or does he have some bond with the person who gave him eternal life? What does Kuromitsu get out of all of this? What are her motivations?

These are some pretty basic questions. At the end of the show, when all is said and done, there are still many events that aren't explained very well, if at all.

Granted, a lot is wrapped up, but so much isn't that I wasn't very satisfied with the conclusion. It's too bad that there were so many problems, because with a bit of tweaking this could have been a very good show.

In 'Ultraviolet: Code 044' (2008), in 2140, rebels infected with Phage are fighting for independence from corporate government on a space-station-turned-metropolis. Genetically modified melancholic 19-year-old dying corporate female assassin will decide the outcome.

While Kurt Wimmer's 2006 'Ultraviolet' film ended with Milla Jovovich shaking the government to its core, 'Code 044' picks up an undisclosed period of time later with the hunting of Phages still being the status quo.

If anything, society has become ever more unstable. In a sneaky move, the government has started using clones infected with the Hemophage virus to take down prominent Phage leaders with the ultimate prize being the head honcho known as King.

Our protagonist is a clone, Agent 044, who is an accomplished assassin but at the tender age of 19 is already starting to worry about how much time she has left before the virus claims her life. She may seem to lack a clear purpose in life but she always follows the orders of Daxus II, the director of the central government.

In a government mandated attack, 044 runs into Luka Bloom, a young Phage leader, whom she instantly and inexplicably falls in love with. In protecting him, she lands herself on the wrong side of the government. Now hunted by her own people as well as the Phages, 044 finds herself on the run.

Her only ally is Garcia, the doctor who cared for her during her training period. If she is to ever return home and live out her remaining days in peace, she'll have to face off against Daxus and his men. Along the way, she'll meet a few new friends, make a ton more enemies and gain a better understanding of who she really is.

Much like the film it's based on, 'Code 044' is targeting a rather specific audience. If you're willing to put up with paper-thin characters and occasionally nonsensical plot developments, then you'll be rewarded with a show that moves along at a brisk pace, tossing out gritty, stylized action sequences like nobody's business.

Sure, the hot and cold romance between 044 and Luka is forced and unnecessary but you might not care after she lays waste to a room full of clone soldiers. With that said, a flurry of action can't disguise what you're watching.

Finally, in 'Viper's Creed' (2009), by the mid 21st century the world has been devastated by environmental pollution and world war. Failed attempts to repair the environmental damage have made travel by air and sea impossible. With 35% of land now underwater isolated cities rely on mercenary corporations for protection from terrorism and crime.

Arqon Global Security is a private military corporation that provides protection for Fort Daiva City. They use transforming motorbikes called Maneuver-Blades piloted by Blademen. The Blademan receives technical support from an operator who works in a central command center.

Karaya Sakurako works for Arqon Global Security as an operator with Blademan Saiki Cryde as part of an elite unit known as Viper. They are fighting against a terrorist group known as Hound which is using unmanned weapons called Bugmecha which were left behind after the war.

The first half consists solely of stand alone episodes where viewers get to know the various members of Viper Squad. The group consists of the typical members of an action oriented team: a sniper who never misses, a big, tough, silent guy, the hotshot of the team haunted by his past, and the hot chick who excels in kicking ass.

Added to the group is a new member, an enthusiastic youth who happens to be the son of Arqon's CEO and a new operator who gives the Vipers instructions when they're out in the field. Many of the early episodes focus on an individual member and their background with a battle scene with bugs thrown in for good measure. These are good, solid episodes, with engaging stories.

It's in the second half of the episodes where things get interesting and they start having some continuity. A conspiracy is revealed that involves a plot to frame the Vipers for murder. It starts off as a fairly pedestrian story, but there's and early twist in the tale that makes the story much more exciting.

This story arc is excellent and really makes the show stand out from the average mecha program. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.