Shelf Worthy

Dec 16th 2002
Shelf Life: A Buying Guide for the Broke Otaku

As the holiday season rolls around, yearly traditions are brought out of the closet and into people's lives again. The compilation of wish lists, the taking of final exams, the selling of textbooks never opened, the purchase of gifts, and… the depletion of wallets. With all the other stuff you have to buy for other people for the holidays, what about the stuff you want to buy for yourself? Surely, you deserve to receive just as many presents from yourself as others do from you, right? After all, you have to deal with yourself every single day—not to mention having to look at yourself naked in the mirror. Perhaps a little reward is due to you. It sounds like a great idea, too bad you have no money. Had I more money than you then I'd laugh at you as well, but all I can do is present you with the next best thing I can think of: a buying guide for the broke otaku.

Based solely on personal opinion, intuition, and whims of judgment, I present to you an all-new column that you (yes, I'm talking directly to you) can read every week on Anime News Network, starting just in time for the holidays. Don't you feel privileged? You should, since I'm here just to console you and be your friend for all those lonely days that some other jerk made fun of your over/never washed anime shirt. Anyway, the premise of the column is simple. Each installment will take a look at the new anime DVD releases of the upcoming week, all of which will then be thrown into categories marked as shelf-worthy, video rental shelf, and perishable item. Sound simple? Good.

Week of December 16 – 21

Shelf-worthy

Kurogane Communication: Memories of Earth DVD Collection
Media Blasters 360 min. MSRP $39.95 12/17/2002

Kurogane Communication is a series of fifteen-minute episodes dealing with the post-apocalyptic world, a genre that everyone has long become accustomed to. Surprisingly, though, the series is quite unique and oddly intriguing at times. In the series, five robots protect a girl who thinks that she may be the last human on Earth. Throughout the series, she searches tirelessly for other humans, while encountering obstacles like killer Combat Machines and buried memories of her parents.

While the premise of this series sounds depressing, it's actually very light-hearted at times. I personally find it hard to keep a straight face when a manly robot prances around the entire series with a gaudy pink apron, not the mention the other antics that happen. The story is very heartwarming, and there are periods when the main character goes into periods of fascinating soul-searching. For a series with such a simplistic plot, there are numerous plot turns that can be pretty deep. Granted, the first few episodes take a lot of good humor to swallow, as it's hard to take seriously a war-torn world with some teenaged girl hanging up laundry to dry and frying her breakfast amidst a field of ruin. Either way, it's a fascinating series with a somewhat unique approach to the post-apocalyptic genre of anime that is both light and comical, and still carries a somewhat deep plot. In any case, with a 360 minute collection at only forty some bucks, it's definitely worth it for a quirky, heartwarming, series with feminine-looking robots. Also, on the positive side, it's the only money you might spend on a DVD this week, cuz from here on out, it goes from good, to bad, to sucky. (Literally. You'll see.)


Video Rental Shelf

Saber Marionette J to X Vol. #5 (of 6)
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. $29.98 12/17/2002

Saber Marionette J to X is one of the many incarnations of a similarly titled comedy series. For the most part it's the same Saber Marionette comedy that you've already seen over, and over again. Still funny? You bet. Still charming? Yep. Worth the $30? Only if you're adamantly collecting the series. J to X is one of those series that makes fans remember why they got into Saber Marionette in the first place. The animation and art and all those technical aspects aren't that great, but the entertainment value is what matters, and that is what it delivers. In fact, it's one of the better SM series. But admit it. After so many years, aren't we all a little Marionetted out? So should you rent it? Well, if you liked Saber Marionette, then hell yes. But as for dishing out $30 in these miserly holiday weeks—better not. Rent it. If you like it, make someone else buy it for you.

Chance Pop Session Vol. #1 (of 3)
ADV Films 125 min. $29.99 12/17/2002

Chance Pop Session is a cute series about a group of girls at a music institution who dream of becoming singers. They were inspired to attend the school by a pop star, who also went to the same school. As their time there goes by, they learn the values of perseverance, friendship, and all that feel-good stuff that makes a shoujo series cute and worthwhile to watch. – And then it's ruined—when the girls discover that they have things in common with each other, like a “mysterious blue stone” and all those overdone elements of a series that are capable of absolutely dampening a perfectly good show. The series has characters with the potential to develop, as well as a slew of nice music to listen to. It's just a shame that the writer felt the need to incorporate a mystical element into the series. Either way, it's worth a rental just to watch the relationships between the characters grow, as well as listen to the music in the series. It's a show that may appeal to some, and completely turn off others, so it's best to give it a rental before any wallet-breaking decisions are made. Luckily, if you end up really liking the series, then you're lucky, since the whole thing's been crammed onto 3 DVDs.

Tokyo Jushoden
Media Blasters 120 min. $29.95 12/17/2002

Collected as a short OVA series, Tokyo Jushoden is based off the identically-titled novel by Suguru Shoji. It tells the grand tale of ten warriors who are reincarnated into this world to prevent demons from taking over. Interestingly, though it's been on fansubber's lists for quite some time, little is ever said about this series in the fan community or even online. Even Media Blasters doesn't have any mention of this release on their website. While some people enjoy the series, many don't, and it's reasonable to see why. Although the novel was widely popular in Japan, it suffered many problems when the entire thing was crammed into a three-episode series. The series seems too rushed, and there isn't enough time to fully develop the characters. With ten main protagonists and a slew of evil, three episodes just aren't enough. If you're a fan of the novel, though, then this DVD would be good to rent to satisfy your curiosity. Besides, fight scenes are popular among today's fans, or so I hear. But unless you're a fan of poor characterization, then I wouldn't recommend buying it. We all have Sailor Moon on TV to help us satisfy those strange urges.

Hyper Police Vol. #3 (of 6)
Image Entertainment 100 min. $19.98 12/17/2002

Ah… Hyper Police. An exciting plot made annoying by the overdone half-human half-catgirl shtick. The story involves a bounty hunting group called Hyper Police that hunts down bad guys running amok in the city. The only thing odd about it is the rampant number of animorphic characters running about. On the plus side, the series is able to stand up pretty well on its own feet, with decent animation, a pretty solid storytelling base, interesting characters, and a great source for all those fanboys obsessed with animal-girls. On the down side, it's a breeding ground for even more fanboys obsessed with animal-girls. So if you like cats, then the 17th is your lucky day. If you like good ol' cop versus inner-city bad guy action, then this is the show to rock your world. Unless you're planning on collecting the entire series though, this is definitely one to rent and enjoy for the few viewings that it can be tolerated for. Beyond that it gets pretty old pretty quick.

Ranma Forever Vol. #4 (of 8)
Viz Inc. 75 min. $ 24.98 12/17/2002

Ranma, Ranma, Ranma… quite frankly, I'm all Ranma'd out, and this holiday season, you definitely have better things to be spending your money on than this series. Granted, Ranma has funny antics and wacky hijinks that strike a nostalgic in many a fan, but with such a long series, is it really necessary to buy every single volume of every single season? Best to let someone else buy it for you. And if you get stuck with the need for a Ranma fix, then just watch any other episodes that you may have lying around the house. They're all the same anyway, so you won't miss a single beat.

Perishable Item
Alas, here is the part of the closet where we throw all of our “I picked it up free at a school anime club giveaway” DVDs. The ones where you could buy, or you could rent, but that would just make you stupid. Either that or it's just not worth the money. Sometimes, no matter how big of an anime fan you are, you have better things to spend your money on, like a few donuts, or a bottle of Calpis Soda, or even the last box of Diva Starz dolls at TOYS R US just so you watch some six-year old cry while knowing that you actually improved their life in some tiny way. Enough talking though, on to the items that best not be left on your shelf for longer than a friend wants to store them there.


Trouble Chocolate Vol. #2
Viz Inc. 104 min. $24.98 12/17/2002

Ever feel that sometimes the world is just one big in-joke and you weren't even in the same country when it happened? Yeah, Trouble Chocolate is like that. Be forewarned: no matter how funny the back of the box sounds, it's not. There's a sometimes blunt line between funny and stupid, and this series definitely crosses it. The premise of the show is simple. Kid eats chocolate, chocolate makes funny things happen at an already weird school, kids run around the school chasing demons and other stuff, kid likes some girl, (insert random story twist here). Alas, not only is the plot lame, but there are no other redeeming parts of the series. The art is bland, the animation is choppy, the music is unimpressive, and unless you can admit you're just there for the cute schoolgirls, then it's a waste of your money.

Ronin Warriors Vol. #9 (of 10)
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. $24.98 12/17/2002

You've already seen it on TV, so there is no longer a point in renting it, unless you really want to hear the original Japanese language. And if you missed it on TV, chances are a friend probably taped it. And unless you were inclined enough to buy the previous eight volumes, then it's useless to start collecting the series this late in the game, unless you love the series to death, and have a spare $300 to throw away in shame.

Level C
Kitty Media 30 min. $24.95 12/17/2002

I'm sure we all have better things to spend our money on than hentai, right? Especially one as lame as this one? Oh, but wait. There's a plot. Yeah, you heard me. A plot. That doesn't involve flying body parts. There's even, *gasp*, a love triangle! The story is based on the manga of the same name by Mithuba Kurenai. It follows the story of a high school student and the trials he faces after the death of his mother, as various men try to comfort him. And yet 30 minutes later, all it accomplishes is a huge waste of celluloid and hentai/yaoi fans who realize that the DVD is only adequate enough to serve their purpose once. Level C suffers not because of the plot, or the content, but the animation. The animation is poorly done, and the storyline is seriously hampered by cramming a somewhat short manga series into a 30 minute episode. On the other hand, if you're a fan of yaoi, then this is definitely the thing for you, as it's a nice half hour of solid yaoi. So, hey, if some of you fangirls want to stop writing fanfics and watch the real thing, this just may be the thing for you. Even so, I suggest you borrow it from someone that did buy it, as all the yaoi in the world couldn't make up for the money that would be lost in buying this.

Bible Black: Second Sacrament
Kitty Media 60 min. $29.95 12/17/2002

At this point, I'm not sure what's more sacrilegious, calling this thing a sacrament, or even putting this out on store shelves. It really does baffle me. You know it's bad when people have to have “ritual orgies” to overcome their “hardships” (please, no pun intended.) On the positive side, the story is extremely funny. It's one of those things that (mature) friends could get together and watch just for the sheer entertainment of laughing at the absurdity and ridiculousness of the scenes on the screen. But if you really wanted to laugh at it, then it's much cheaper to borrow it from a friend (who still won't admit in public that he watches hentai) than be caught in video stores with it (it, meaning any one of the lowest quality, most poorly done series ever animated.)

So I hope I've made your holiday shopping just a little bit easier. Are you going to actually listen to my suggestions? Nah, probably not. Right now I bet you're all just wondering when I'll stop asking myself questions and answering them later. Will I do that? No. Will I try? M—ouch! They're pelting me with rocks! GAH! Well, until next week then!

Bamboo "SakechanBD" Dong

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