Shelf Life
Scrapped Princess, Divergence Eve, Daphne, more

by Bamboo Dong, Jun 5th 2005
Lately, I seem to always be working on this column while soaring 10,000 feet above the Earth's surface. However, unlike some of my fellow passengers (the man in front of me has been drooling uncontrollably onto his lapel since takeoff), I find that I work better when cooped up inside a metal barrel with nothing else better to do, short of going through the SkyMall magazine for what seems like the hundredth time that year. And, with the pleasure of people-watching, it gives me plenty of time to think. As I zoom over large patches of water and fluffy, ice-cream clouds that make me ravenously hungry, I can mull over random observations while listening to the soothing 80s sounds of E.G. Daily on my MP3 player and sipping my preferred complimentary beverage of choice, tomato juice. Normally, I like to glance at people and think about what their lives are like, like the art student sitting diagonally from me, sporting a home-knit vest, feathers in her hair, skin-tight lycra leotard bottoms, 80s-style striped leg warmers, and coloring a cubist-style piece with neon Sharpies. But today, I noticed that there are quite a few people on my flight who look like historical figures, which isn't something you normally see, although one of my human physiology professors is the spitting image of Napoleon Bonaparte. There is a man a few rows back who looks like Christopher Columbus, another that looks like Winston Churchill, and further back, someone who looks like Vlad the Impaler. Right now, someone who looks like Margaret Thatcher is getting up to use the restroom, while Joseph Goebbels moves his bag to accommodate her.

If you need a way to pass the time on a flight, this is the way to do it. Welcome to Shelf Life.





Porco Rosso
Buenavista 98 min. 1/1 $29.99 02/22/2005

Whoever thought a fat pig could be so charming? Not that that's a surprise—“charm” is a concept that Studio Ghibli has made its business over the decades, and it rings just as true in their quaint film, Porco Rosso. Pirates roam the airs over the Adriatic Sea, swooping down on any vessel that dares cross the waters. Only one hero can stop them, a bounty hunter known as Porco Rosso, the Crimson Pig. When he's challenged by a cavalier American pilot, he vows to give him a showdown worthy of his reputation. The story is simplistic at best, and follows a fairly linear progression that doesn't allow for much surprise. Even so, the film is filled with rich characterization and a powerful imagination that fills every frame with a dose of magic. If you're looking to lose yourself in a beautiful story of fairytale-like aspirations, you'll do yourself a favor to pick up Porco Rosso. I was certainly a bit disappointed by how it ended, but the ride to get there was joy enough. No matter what age you are, this is a genuinely delightful film that belongs in your permanent collection.

Related Products: Beyond a doubt, if you're looking for more of this classical fairytale flair, check out some of the other Ghibli greats like Nausicaä and Spirited Away.
Sell by: Anytime, really. Porco Rosso is a timeless classic that will please animation fans for generations to come.



Samurai Champloo Vol. #1 + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? 01/11/2005 $39.98

Samurai Champloo Vol. #1

Geneon 100 min. 1/? 01/11/2005 $29.98

It's all about the flavah, baby, and Samurai Champloo's exploding with it. From the lame (admit it, it's hokey) opening theme to the record scratches that dot the episodes, the show is body rolling with style. Mugen and Jin's lives were crossed when they ended up on the executioner's block together. They escape with the help of their sick samurai skills and a peppy girl named Fuu, but now they have to carry out a promise to track down a samurai who smells of sunflowers. Along the way, they wind up as bodyguards for the yakuza, fighting each other on opposing sides. Mixing exciting sword fights with a suave hip hop soundtrack, Samurai Champloo is really in a class of its own. I was skeptical of the concept at first... samurai and hip hop? What? After awhile though, all those thoughts quickly faded away. The characters are a firecracker of energy and the swordfights are a hurrah a minute. Throw in those sexy beats to make it stand out from all the other samurai shows, and we've got one hell of a winner. Check this out.

Related Products: Samurai Champloo may be a bit quirky, but if you're looking for some more genteel, calm swordfighting, check out Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal and the more recent Otogi Zoshi.
Sell by: Preferably soon. I had to go to three Best Buys to find this on the shelf!



Spiral Vol. #3 - Shooting Falling Stars
FUNimation 125 min. 3/? $29.98 03/01/2005

Make no mistake, Spiral is a helluva lot of fun. Volume two left viewers at a major cliffhanger. A game of death was underfoot, and the prizes? A tape exposing the Blade Children for the murders they committed and Hiyono. With a knack for predicting moves even Bobby Fischer would be envious of, Ayumu races against time and luck to get both prizes, preferably without getting his head blown off. Of course, the Blade Children have plenty to be afraid of themselves, now that the Hunters are starting to come after them, one by one. Like the first two volumes, the third disc is expert at keeping viewers fascinated by what's going on. Chase games and puzzles galore, things are always more exciting when death is knocking on the door. Watching the characters zip around trying to outwit each other is one thing, but trying to keep up with them just heightens the excitement more... that, and it blows your mind all the more when you think about how carefully scripted the story is when each resolution is completely different from what you anticipated. Still no hint to what the Blade Children are, but at this point, I really don't care anymore. I just want to see them tackle more challenges. This is too damned fun.

Related Products: At first, the series was a lot like Case Closed, but it's since veered from case cracking to death dodging. Ever since its newfound atmosphere, it kind of reminds me of Jin-Roh.
Sell by: The problem with Spiral is that you can hold off watching it forever, but once you start you can't stop. The cliffhangers sure don't help.



Rumiko Takahashi Anthology Vol. #1 - Primal Needs + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $34.98 01/11/2005
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology Vol. #1 - Primal Needs
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 01/11/2005

Takahashi's one shots have a huge advantage over some of her longer series—brevity. They still have the same beautiful stories and colorful characters, but they're over and done with before readers have the chance to be consumed with boredom. That plays a huge part in what makes her Anthology so appealing. Adapted from her Rumic Theatre collection of one-shots, each episode follows different characters as they deal with different situations. From a funny tale about a housewife who's trying to hide her pet penguin from her prissy landlord to a romantic piece about a wedding hall owner who relearns the joys of love, these quaint little stories are all incredibly well-written. It's a wonder how Takahashi ever comes up with these ideas, and even more amazing how she manages to weaves such intricate and complex stories into such a limited length. If you're looking for a great collection of stories that you can just pop in whenever you need something to do, this is a great catch.

Related Products: Good one shots can sometimes be more intriguing than long series. For other ones, give Human Crossing a go, or my favorite collection of vignettes of all time, Memories.
Sell by: One of those impulse buys.






Scrapped Princess Vol. #1 - Family Ties + Artbox + Figure
Bandai 100 min. 1/6 $49.98 04/26/2005
Scrapped Princess Vol. #1 – Family Ties
Bandai 100 min. 1/6 $29.98 04/26/2005

While there's certainly a lot of hype surrounding Scrapped Princess, much of it generated during its popular fansub run, it's somewhat of a hit or miss show. If the whole “sweet girl being targeted for death because she's supposedly the poison that will kill the world” story angle is what keeps you glued to the screen, then you'll undoubtedly be perky every minute of the show, wondering what will happen next. And, well, if you're a bit more cynical like me and you think her foreshadowed death is one big bluff, it probably won't do much for you. Fifteen years ago, a prophecy was made of a girl who would bring about worldwide destruction when she turned 16—the Scrapped Princess. She's introduced as Pacifica, a charismatic girl who's on the run with her step-brother and sister, away from all those who seek to kill her. Along the way, they encounter friendships and betrayals and slews of enemies who've dedicated their lives to vanquishing the ill-fated princess. What really pushes the series forward most of all though, are the main characters and the portrayals of humanity around them. It's hard not to be mildly fascinated at the turns of events, as it seems more and more like the countrymen are digging their own graves at the self-fulfilling prophecy. As this became more apparent, each progressive episode got to be more interesting, but there's still not enough information to really give a rounded look at what's going on in the show. However, it shows plenty of promise, and I'm really just waiting for the next few discs to knock my socks off. Let's hope I'm right.

Related Products: Children who are fated to destroy the world, or crumble a family? Try Blue Seed or Ayashi no Ceres.
Sell by: If you want the figure, get it before it sells out. Other than that, I'd wait to see if it picks up. It's easier to have a popular fansub run when you're not paying for it.



The Daichis Vol. #2 - Debt-Doomed
Geneon 100 min. 2/? $24.98 03/01/2005

Talk about taking a geriatric genre and kicking it in the groin! The Daichis prove that even after years and years of transforming superhero shows, there's still more fun to be had. With four more episodes lined up, the dysfunctional family is pitted against giant toys, huge robots, and of all things, a huge Soviet factory demon of death that swings around a hammer and a sickle. Seldom are there hero shows that scream “shit!” and “bitch!” every few minutes, and the last I checked, there weren't that many series that showed little boy bits all the time either. Certainly, The Daichis isn't really something you can watch over and over again, but it's great at least once. It keeps making attempts to shine some deep family moments on all the action and drill in some bits about love and happiness, but if you're going to be watching this show, do it for the laughs. If you're bored this week, this is well worth your time.

Related Products: Go go Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman! Businessmen who transform into fruity superheroes? YES!
Sell by: One of these days. It's one of those you pick up on an afterthought, because people hardly ever remember this show exists.



New Getter Robo Vol. #1 - Rude Awakenings + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/4 $39.98 03/01/2005
New Getter Robo Vol. #1 - Rude Awakenings
Geneon 100 min. 1/4 $29.98 03/01/2005

Is it strange that I couldn't help but think about Sailor Moon the entire time I was watching New Getter Robo? Let's see... the first few episodes were about collecting the right warriors, who magically knew the right things to do once inside the Getters... all of them had the same pattern of monster busting with the same moves... Yup, it's monster of the week alright, but like Go Nagai loves, there's plenty of blood and lots of demons. While I admit to downright hating a lot of Go Nagai's works, I've always liked his robot stuff. The characters are far from philosophical thinkers, but they're a lot of fun. With their virile grunts and their fiery personalities, they spark up the atmosphere with plenty of man-sass that gives the episodes just the right dosage of locker room banter. Then there's the Getter. Fact: Any robot that can be formed by combining more than one plane or vehicle is awesome. Fact: Any robot that can beat down on enemies with huge disintegrating lasers are awesome. Fact: The Getter is freaking awesome. The demons that it has to fight are pretty lame and sometimes phallic, but if you're watching this show, you're probably watching it for the robot anyway. So far, there's not much in the way of a complex story or an explanation as to what's going on, but one thing's for sure, watching robot brawls are a great way to waste away a couple of hours, even if the series is repetitive enough to drag the replay value to nearly zero.

Related Products: There's something awesome about Go Nagai's robot stuff that just isn't there in his other tripe. Check out the other Getter Robo and MazinKaiser shows.
Sell by: Eventually. Old robot shows have been around forever, and this will eventually find its place on an aficionado's shelves.



D.N.Angel Vol. #3 - Facets of Darkness
ADV Films 100 min 3/7 $29.98 03/01/2005

It's about time things start inching out of One Shot Territory. Inching, mind you, not lunging, or even crawling. Like the past two volumes, the first two episodes on this disc were primarily standalone stories. The first one involved a lovesick Wiz pining over a cute lop-eared female, and the second a time-shifting story about a magical violin. Fun, to be sure, but after so many episodes, these side stories are getting a little dull. Luckily, things start moving a bit more in the next two episodes. Dark has two more items he wants to steal, but each one gets him closer and closer in contact with Krad. How the two relate and what the relationship between them is still unanswered, but it gives the lagging series a hearty kick in the pants. Hopefully, with things gaining a bit more complexity and sneaking closer to an established story arc, D.N.Angel will become a lot more engaging.

Related Products: Like Saint Tail or Lupin, it's all about stealing things with arrogance.
Sell by: Soon. Unless you buy it now, it'll fade away into obsoletion.



Divergence Eve Vol. #1 -Welcome to the Watcher's Nest
ADV Films 125 min. 1/3 $29.98 03/01/2005

Eventually, if you make torpedo tits big enough, you'll eventually hit a threshold where viewers keep watching the next episode just to see how high they'll bounce. Sadly, that's how I made it past the first episode, and I'm thankful for it—especially since the first episode was pretty terrible. Taking place at the end of the series, it plops viewers right into the middle of everything with zero explanation and enough meaningless technobabble to make your eyes glaze over. The horrible mixture of 3D and 2D artwork didn't help the situation at all, and combined with just how rough and choppy the first episode was, they're lucky anyone watched the second. Misaki is a new cadet on Watcher's Nest, a colony set up in one of the outer reaches of space. However, only the military knows the real reason why they're there—to prevent the spread of GHOULS, mysterious monster-like entities that apparently just kill things. Despite the best efforts of the production staff, things don't really get interesting until the second episode. Viewers are transported back to the beginning, to start the journey of discovery with the characters. What are the GHOULS, and what the hell are all those creepy marching things on the Core's surface? Nobody knows, and it's that morbid curiosity that makes it worth checking out once. The only challenge is to ignore those mammaries and the technovomit that fills up 80% of each episode.

Related Products: With the exception of the big tits, I found this to be a lot like Stellvia—just a group of girls training in space.
Sell by: Now, if ever. Just get the first episode over with; it gets better after that.






Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol. #1 - Initiation + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $44.98 03/01/2005
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol. #1- Initiation
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 03/01/2005

I've started this review nine times now, and all I can think about is the thongs all the girls wear. Some of them don't even have strings to hold them up—they just magically magnetize themselves onto their crotches in a valiant attempt to shield them against stray bullets and other dangers that protective clothes were made to block. But wait, back to the review. Daphne in the Brilliant Blue is another in the recent trend of guns for hire shows, like Mezzo and Burst Angel, except it makes a really heartfelt attempt in the first two episodes to inject some character depth into it. Starting out with an almost painful tale of how top student Maia goes from Ocean Agency prospect to homeless and poor within a day, one starts to think that maybe the rest of the show would focus on her struggles to cope with her losses and battle back. No. The first two episodes are about as good as it gets. Everything else is a downhill blur—how she meets the Nereides girls, how she starts to work for them, and how she gets her own little thong to prance around in. After that it's just shoot-outs and hijinks, with feeble attempts at making a more complex story by adding in shady villains that get capped within 20 minutes. Sadly, the lackluster story might have been more bearable had it not been for the insufferable characters. All the girls are defined stereotypes, and most of them are completely irritating both in their actions and personalities. If it weren't for the HAHA factor in staring at the Magical AntiGrav Thongs™, this cookie-cutter show would be an utter waste of time. I will rue the day when girls start cosplaying as these women.

Related Products: Now that these shows are a dime a dozen, check out Mezzo, Burst Angel, Noir, and Getbackers.
Sell by: Never. There's a million other shows like it, all with more dignity than this one.



Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite Vol. #1 - How Do You Do, Master? + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/3 $39.98 01/04/2005
Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite Vol. #1 - How Do You Do, Master?
Geneon 100 min. 1/3 $29.98 01/04/2005

Milquetoast hero, check. Who ends up living in a huge mansion by himself, check. With lots and lots of women, check. WHO ARE ALSO MAIDS... check. Need I go further? Is there anything that this show can unfurl in four episodes that I couldn't predict after five minutes? I hope you'll forgive me for this spoiler: No. After Taro's mom up and dies, he ends up going to Tokyo to meet his grandpa. In a twist of events, he ends up inheriting a ginormous house complete with an army of maids who are falling over each other to please their master. This, usually, involves either rubbing their breasts all over him, or reminding the audience that yes, they have a pair of nipples. However, as much as our little boy wonder is enjoying his new home and crushing hard on the head maid, things are not to stay forever. Along comes Rukya, an ice princess who was betrothed to Taro in a move to unite the family fortunes. Undoubtedly, havoc will ensue, and it's with humiliation that I admit that I'm kind of curious what will happen next. ... Well... okay, you got me. I just want to gawk at maid nipples.

Related Products: If you're looking for more of this Millions of Girls + 1 Guy crap, wait for Girls Bravo, but if you want something with maids that doesn't suck so hard, give Mahoromatic a go.
Sell by: Just say no.




That's it! Starting next week, I'll be doing the releases for the upcoming week, and then doing supplementary “catch up” Shelf Lives in between. I will prevail!

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