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Category:    Home > Reviews > Anime > Animation > Action > Fantasy > Comedy > Adventure > Gaming > Japan > TV > Soundtrack > Literature > Brit > Frame Arms Girl: Complete Collection/No Game No Life Zero: The Movie (both 2017/Sentai Blu-rays)/Watership Down: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1978/Vocalion Records Hybrid Super Audio CD/SACD/SA

Frame Arms Girl: Complete Collection/No Game No Life Zero: The Movie (both 2017/Sentai Blu-rays)/Watership Down: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1978/Vocalion Records Hybrid Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD w/CD layer)

Picture: B+/A/X Sound: B+/B+/B & B- Extras: C/B/C- Main Programs: B+/A-/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Watership Down soundtrack Import Super Audio CD is now only available from our friends at Vocalion Records and can be ordered from the link below.

Next up are three titles from the more serious side of animation, but for a change, one is not from Japan....

Ao was just a regular high school girl until one day she receives a package in the mail, Gourai! A Frame Arms Girl, the latest in next generation A.I. toy in which can equip various armors and weapons for virtual mock battles. Ao and Gourai quickly joined by 2 more Frame Arms Girls, Stylet and Baseland, each wanting to test their combat capabilities against Gourai. Soon other Gourai's 'sisters' show up not only challenging her but living with them too!

In Frame Arms Girl: Complete Collection (2017), Ao has been selected to own and test out the latest generation of Frame Arm Girls toys, a miniaturized walking, talking and battling girls. For some reason each Frame Arm Girl wants to challenge Gourai (the first Frame Arm Girl Ao received) and ends up living with them. Their whole existence is to battle one another, but even more interesting how girls live in the human world with beloved Ao. As the Frame Arms Girls battle they also learn what it means to be human as they try do 'normal' human sized tasks.

This was a cute anime series about 'toys' but they are more like the toys become friends and live in a world where people enjoy virtual battles with their toys/avatars. Extras include clean opening and closing animations and trailers.

Episodes include...

Gourai / Stylet and Baseland - Here comes Gourai, Stylet and Baseland!

Can a Sty-ko Who can't Fly be Call "Sty-ko"? / We're Going to Clean - Gourai helps Stylet get over her 'trauma'. The girls are given the task fixing a cleaning robot vacuum.

Let's Go to School/Here comes the Materia Sisters - Baseland sneaks with Ao to school and the girls follow. Two more Frame Arm Girls join them ...but they are a bit sadistic.

Jinrai Has Arrived! / Redecorating is Fun - A ninja Frame Arm Girl joins the group. Each the girls get their own personalized room.

The Architect is Activated / The Errand Race - The girls face off with the virtual A.I. the Architect. The girls are sent on an errand and end up in a race.

Fireworks Festival of Feelings / Let's Go to School 2 - Ao and the girls watch fireworks together. The Frame Arm Girls have a haunted night at school.

Vs. Hresvelgr / First Tale of the F.R. Girls - Gourai is defeated by Hresvelgr. Ao learns how the Frame Arm Girls are created.

The Pep Rally / Autumn Beckons... - The girls cheer for Gourai as she trains to become stronger. Ao and Gourai spend some private time together playing house.

Ah, I'll Catch a Cold / Together Again Tomorrow - Ao catches a cold and the girls get to nurse her. Ao and the girls have a dream of all being human sized.

Hot Pot Day / Battle! Battle! Battle!!! - Ao and the girls have hotpot together. Hresvelgr returns and warns if Gourai loses their next battle all the Frame Arm Girls will be recalled and they will separated from Ao.

What Lies Behind that Emotion / A Public Bath! A Battle?! - Ao wonders what sort of relationship should a master have with their Frame Arm Girls. The girls head off to a bath house. Hresvelgr returns with an upgrade and power up.

Last Battle / That Which I Give You - Gourai and Hresvelgr battle once more, Gourai combines all the girls powers and defeats her. It's Christmas and Ao and the girls spend the holidays together and treasure their times together.

6,000 years before Sora and Shiro came to Disboard, the land was covered with war, chaos and ash between the War of the Gods. No one knows who, how or why it started, the only thing people cared about is how to survive, humans hid underground on the verge of extinction. A young man Riku one day meets a discarded Ex Machina, Schwi a robot who desired a heart. As she learns what having a heart means, Riku discover the truth of the world ...and perhaps through Schwi discover a way to end the War of the Gods in No Game No Life Zero: The Movie (2017).

Riku is an ordinary human, the humans are a dying race far bellow the Gods, the Elves, Dwarfs, Warbeasts, Ex Machina and many more.... Born into a world where humans are forced to hide underground and sacrificing friends and family over the years, having no reason why they exist or why they are dying. Riku encounters a stray Ex Machina Schwi and discovers through her that the Gods were races created by Old Deus (the old gods) and they were fighting in whichever race was the last race standing would be come the True Gods. After learning the truth, Riku and the humans decide to end the war, not by force, but secretly manipulating information between the Gods, and in doing so forcing a stalemate where humans will be the ones who end the war.

This movie is a prequel to the anime series No Game No Life, in which tells the origins to the world of Disboard, a world where everything is decided by games. It's story has a far more darker and grim origins. The movie goes all out and creates a world of beauty and destruction mixed with fantasy, love, romance, drama and tragedy. Extras include Japanese promos, behind the scenes and trailers, plus you can read more about the original series at this link...


Last but not least, we have the music for one of the most underrated and respected mature animated features ever: Angela Morley's Watership Down: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1978). Though it has been issued on vinyl, CDs and the like before, this new edition from the great Vocalion Records label is a new Hybrid Super Audio CD with regular Compact Disc layer that makes it cross-compatible with all CD-capable players.

Transferred perfectly by Michael J. Dutton from the original magnetic soundtrack master, this is the best way to now hear the music on its own. A few years ago, no less that Criterion issued the film on Blu-ray in an amazing HD master with PCM 2.0 Stereo from the original magnetic movie soundmaster and it received raves universally. As good as you can hear the music there, as one would expect from Criterion, the ultra high definition sound of the DSD tracks (oversampled 2.8 Millions times as is standard for the format) actually does Criterion one better, though DSD is never used on video releases in fairness to that legendary video label. The tracks are as follows, with notes where applicable...

    1. Prologue (Williamson orch Ashmore) MH
    2. Main Title (Williamson orch Morley)
    3. Venturing Forth (Morley)
    4. Into the Mist (Morley)
    5. Crossing the River and Onward (Morley)
    6. Fiver's Vision (Morley)
    7. Through the Woods (Morley)
    8. The Rat Fight (Morley)
    9. Violet's Gone (Morley)
    10. Climbing the Down (Morley)
    11. Bright Eyes (Batt) AG
    12. Interlude (Morley)
    13. Bigwig's Capture (Morley)
    14. Kehaar's Theme (Morley)
    15. The Escape from Efrafa (Morley)
    16. Hazel's Plan (Morley)
    17. Final Struggle and Triumph (Morley)
    18. The End Titles (Morley)

    MH Michael Hordern (narrator);
    AG Art Garfunkel (vocal)

Only the brief voice-over narration by Michael Hordern shows sonic limits, but the music mean to enhance the dark tale of rabbits escaping an oppressed world is handled very intelligently, skillfully and honestly as the first adaptation of the Richard Adams book more than endures in the face of a later hit TV version and a new series coming soon from Netflix. We'll save reviewing the film for whenever we catch up to the Criterion edition or inevitable 4K release, but soundtracks do not get enough respect and treatment in the higher-definition audiophile realm (Dances With Wolves, My Fair Lady and the 1967 Casino Royale being other rare exceptions, not to mention all the great, lossless isolated music tracks on almost every limited edition Twilight Time Blu-ray), but it is a real treat when it happens as it does here.

As noted, this is one of those still all-too-rare animated works outside of Japan that is serious and not a comedy, this one from England as was the 1954 version of Orwell's Animal Farm (waiting on the Blu-ray for that one) and the new series is bound to create curiosity interest for everything Watership Down. That's a very good thing. Even the massive success of the CGI animated era has not changed those fundamental differences, which is all the more reason why when a film and music soundtrack are done so remarkably well as they are done here makes it all the more reason to take note and be glad new generations are discovering such vital work.

It only makes it better when it sounds this vivid and palatable.

The only extra are new liner notes by Robert Walton in the disc's paper-fold, which also has a few other tech notes and illustrations, but that's all good too.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on both Sentai releases, especially Zero, are the top of the line from the label and is as good as they could ever look here, once again making us wonder when the label will start issuing 4K discs.

As for sound, Frame is offered in Japanese DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless sound with some Pro Logic-like surrounds sounding great, as does the Japanese DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Zero, also offering a lesser English DTS-MA 5.1 option. 5.1 anything is rare from Sentai, so it is always refreshing when they offer such a track.

The DSD (Direct Stream Digital) 2.0 Stereo lossless tracks on the Watership Down soundtrack may be 40 years older, but the natural flow of sound can compete with the Blu-rays here and many other recent releases that may seem more digital then they should. This is excellent transferred from the original magnetic music soundtrack master and will surprise fans and audiophiles alike who already know and love the music. The PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo CD sound is fine for that format, but cannot compete with the amazing DSD format tracks, with this disc giving those without an SA-CD player (or player capacity) another reason to get a player.

You can order the Watership Down Super Audio CD soundtrack at this link...


From there, be sure to check out the rest of Vocalion's stunning music catalog that also includes audiophile vinyl.

- Ricky Chiang and Nicholas Sheffo (SA-CD)


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