Winter DVD Defrosters

While you’re waiting for spring, curl up with some anime classics, videogame-inspired antics and our pals at the Justice League.

Halo Legends

[Warner, $19.98]

Following in the vein of popular collaborative anthologies like The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, this eight episode collection of 10- to 15-minute shorts delves into the origin story behind the popular Halo videogame series and its characters. Each episode has been crafted by top directors at some of Japan’s finest anime production houses: Studio Bones, Casio Ent., Production I.G., Studio 4′C and Toei. Hot names involved in the project include Momoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Eiko Tanaka (Tekkon Kinkreet), Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Kill Bill‘s “The Origin of Ren” segment), Koichi Mashimo (.hack//, Noir) and Koji Sawai (.hack//, Blade of the Immortal). Directors Frank O’Connor and Joseph Chou oversaw the creation of this intensely satisfying sci-fi collage.

Legends will also have same-day availability on Blu-ray ($34.99) and as a two-disc Special Edition ($29.98). An awesome treat for anime fans and gamer geeks… and no, they’re not always the same thing!

[Release date: February 16]

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

[Warner, $19.98]

Warner Bros. brings us the seventh in the studio’s line of DC Universe direct to video features this month. Directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu and produced by impresario Bruce Timm, Two Earths draws on a 1960s comic-book plotline in which a goody two-shoes Lex Luthor from an alternate universe recruits the League to help him save his Earth from the notorious Crime Syndicate, an evil version of our familiar heroes, in an ultimate showdown of good vs. evil. A shining cast including Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, James Woods, William Baldwin, Gina Torres, James Patrick Stuart and others brings the dimensionally deviated characters to life.

A glut of features packs this release (although most have been seen before…). First looks at the next DC Universe flick plus Green Lantern, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess; “The New World” extended cut which explores the new threats to America the modern League must face; trailers; and one of Timm’s favorite two-parters from JLU, “A Better World.” The Blu-ray and two-disc edition releases ($29.99 & $24.98) tack on a showcase on The Spectre; another JLU two-parter, “Twilight,” and pilots for live-action Wonder Woman and Aquaman projects. Holy rainy day pass-time, Batman!

[Release date: February 23]

Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone

[FUNimation, $29.98]

This beautifully animated release revamps the first six episodes of Hideaki Anno’s cult-followed Evangelion series into feature-length format. In a distant future, half of humanity is wiped out by an event known as “The Second Impact” leading the remains of civilization to battle a scourge of giant creatures called Angels bent on their destruction. In the underground metropolis of Tokyo-3, a young man named Shinji is called upon by his estranged father to join a squad of elite pilots trained to battle in enormous robotic-yet-organic humanoid weapons known as Evangelions. The film delves into Shinji’s internal struggle as he finds himself a key piece of the epic struggle going on around him.

Spanning two discs, the film (billed as a “rebuild”) now features extended and enhanced scenes, brand new animation and tons of visual and audio improvements. In addition to the stunning animation, the film has long been lauded for its haunting soundtrack, so for video/audiophiles, it would be well worth picking up the Blu-ray version ($34.98).

[Release date: March 9]

Ponyo

[Disney, $29.99]

Maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s latest award-winning anime effort arrives on disc this month thanks to distribution and U.S. adaptation partners Disney. Featuring the voices of Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson and other stars, the fanciful all-traditional animation tale reinvents the story of The Little Mermaid with classic Miyazaki flair. When a young fish princess escapes to the surface and befriends a young human boy, she is filled with a desire to become human and stay by his side forever. However, her sorcerer father wishes to keep her below the waves, and her defiance ultimately wreaks turmoil on both their worlds.

This two-disc special edition comes packed with fabulous bonus features: the interactive “World of Ghibli” experience, “Enter the Lands” guide to characters, behind-the-scenes docus and interviews, an introduction by the producers and a storyboard presentation of the movie. The set will be simultaneously released on Blu-ray ($39.99), but either way you snap it up, Ponyo is sure to become a well-loved favorite in your home ent. library.

[Release date: March 2]

March Miyazaki Madness

In tandem with the DVD release of Ponyo, Disney will be offering up special edition two-disc sets of My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service March 2 for $29.99 each.