Shelf Life
When Nerds Collide

by Bamboo Dong, Jul 28th 2005
My DVD shelves didn't used to be such a massive wreck. I used to obsessively organize every new DVD I got, battling with myself whether or not I should display art boxes spine in or out, whether I should file my Evangelion discs under N, S, or E, or whether I should put my Ah/Oh My Goddess! releases separately or together. Not anymore. I think there was a day when I realized that continually moving discs row by row to keep things alphabetized was too taxing, and I just gave up. The result of that is me, just a few days ago, combing through my shelves and discovering discs I bought twice because I had forgotten I'd already had a copy, and plenty of discs that elicited the comment, “Woah, I have this? Awesome!!”

Then I went through all the past Shelf Lifes to see which discs I've already reviewed. Apparently, I fail at keeping track in my head. There's some terrific titles I never reviewed that I could've sworn I had, and plenty of big releases that completely slipped my mind in the shuffle of the time.

How does this affect you? Well, not too terribly much, actually, but what you will see in the upcoming weeks/months is a sudden onslaught of old releases that were left out the first time around for one reason or other. So, forgive me for this peppering of older releases, and hopefully you'll find out about a title you haven't heard much about yet, or you'll be enticed to check out something that you weren't planning on before.

Thanks again for reading, and welcome to Shelf Life! I promise there'll be Perishable Items next week.






Genshiken – The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture DVD 1 + Artbox
Media Blasters 125 min. 1/3 $34.95 07/26/2005
Genshiken – The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture DVD 1
Media Blasters 125 min. 1/3 $29.95 07/26/2005

Sometimes, real life is a lot more interesting than fantasy—even if it's scripted and animated. That's part of what makes Genshiken one of the best shows out this year. Sure, it doesn't have super villains or masked heroines, but it has something even better: realistic people doing ordinary things. Extremely faithful to the original manga, the series follows a college club named The Society for the Study of Modern Visual CultureGenshiken for short. The first volume focuses on the club's three newcomers: Sasahara, a shy freshman who still isn't comfortable declaring himself a nerd; Kohsaka, a super gamer geek who looks every bit a dashing, normal, non-otaku pretty boy; and Saki, a “mundane” who's in love with Kohsaka but loathes his fandom. Between all of the characters, there's probably at least one person who reminds you either of someone in your life, or yourself. From trips to doujinshi shops to the raging crowds at ComicFest, the adventures of the club members are an undeniable riot. Serving almost like a documentary on fans, Genshiken spends just as much time delving into the ins and outs of Japanese fandom as it does looking at the gaps between otaku and “the mundane.” Full of jokes that strike darned close to home and captivating characters to deliver them, Genshiken is an absolute must see for any fan of anime, manga, or games. Within minutes, it rose to the top of my list of favorites, and you'd be doing yourself a hearty disservice by not checking it out.

Related Products: Be sure to watch some of the other otakumentaries out there like Comic Party or the classic, Otaku no Video.
Tastes Like: Salt. "It's found in every kitchen in the world and hey, even in sweat, but take it out of your diet and you'll be begging for it in less than a week. You need salt.



Koi Kaze DVD 1 - The Reunion + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/3 $34.98 03/08/2005
Koi Kaze DVD 1 - The Reunion + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/3 $34.98 03/08/2005

Koi Kaze is the kind of soft, quiet show that can throw anything at you without making you twitch an eye... including brother/sister romance. It has the makings of a quaint romance: sweet characters, awkward silences, blushed encounters, and the undeniable thump of love in the air, but instead of a standard crush between two classmates, this series traverses something more taboo. Koshiro is a 27 year old who feels a little hollow after his last relationship. His senses are awoken when he meets a cute 15 year old on the train. The plot twist? They're actually siblings and she's going to be living with him and his dad while she goes to high school. Unfortunately for him, this knowledge doesn't come into play until long after the seeds of romance have been planted. The premise of this show may sound disturbing (actually, it is), but the way it's played out is so lovely that viewers are focused more on the pain and angst of the main characters than the discomfort of the situation. Knowing that their love is strictly forbidden and extremely taboo, the two struggle to deal with their emotions and fight back the forces of love. Perhaps it's the swirling sakura petals in every scene, or the pastel artwork, or the hushed string soundtrack, but Koi Kaze is a romance that's well worth seeing. It's uncomfortable to watch, but at the same time, the characters are so genuine and intricate that it's hard not to care. It's far from your conventional romance anime, but give this one a chance.

Related Products: If you're in the mood to import, or have the patience to hope for an eventual domestic release, try some of the other quiet and cute romances like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien or Kanon.
Tastes Like: Lifesavers. They leave kind of a nasty aftertaste and make your tongue numb after awhile, but while you're eating them, all you can think about is the flavored sugar.



Mermaid Forest DVD 1 - Quest for Death + Artbox
Geneon 75 min. 1/? $34.98 07/05/2005
Mermaid Forest DVD 1 - Quest for Death
Geneon 75 min. 1/? $29.98 07/05/2005

I have a love/hate relationship with Rumiko Takahashi. I love her short series, but hate her longer stuff. That's one of the things that first drew me towards Mermaid Forest. Nobody knows where Takahashi gets her ideas from, but in the case of her one shots and short series, they're always so unique and complex that one can't help but be thrown to their knees in awe. The series follows a man named Yuta on a quest to end his immortal wanderings. Legend has it that if one partakes in mermaid flesh, it will grant that person immortality. In essence, the series tells you about all the stuff that's in the fine print: where mermaids get their youth, why only some people can gain eternal life, and so on. With a complex web of twists and secrets, Mermaid Forest is enjoyable like only great storytelling can be. It's a little hard to tell all the characters apart, since they all look exactly the same, but once that's out of the way, what remains is to a solid show based on a collection of terrific stories. Break out the marshmallows and roastin' sticks because Mermaid Forest is a wealth of stories worthy of the world's best campfires.

Related Products: For more Takahashi shorts, make it a point to check out Geneon's release of Rumiko Takahashi Anthology.
Tastes Like: Beef and vegetable stew. You can heat it up as many times as you want, but every time you eat it, you keep discovering tasty little morsels you didn't notice the first time around.






Tenjho Tenge DVD 1 : Round One + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/9 $34.98 06/07/2005
Tenjho Tenge DVD 1 : Round One
Geneon 100 min. 1/9 $29.98 06/07/2005

“Bomb A Head! V” is the stuff of legends. If you haven't seen the opening sequence for Tenjho Tenge yet, I highly recommend it. Unlike the artist's stupid and embarrassing P.V. for the song, the opening is even better than the show, or at least the first disc. Oh sure, the series has all the traits that makes me want to see more (and truthfully, I do want to see more): gorgeous character designs, liquid animation, thrilling fight scenes, bitchin' action sequences... but it's missing one giant thing—a coherent storyline. The individual scenes make sense, but they lack the meaning and purpose to glue them together. Bob and Souchiro transfer into a new high school, planning on taking over and being hailed as the kings of the halls. Hitch is, everyone at the school is a mean fighting machine, and the boys have to deal with the Juken club first, made up of two hot sisters (one of whom is already obsessed with Souchiro) and a guy who knows how to whomp ass. After this, things get a little muddled, what with an organization at the school that can authorize violent attacks on the student body, complete with student hitmen to carry out orders. If all you're looking for are some slick fights and hot chicks, Tenjho Tenge is a terrific choice. The action scenes are satisfying, the characters are firecrackers of personality, and visually, it's a feast. Compared to the manga though, much of its energy has been refocused on fanservice rather than storyline, and that throws it back a few notches. If you're craving some head smashing though, quench your tastes with this.

Related Products: Tenjho Tenge is the bigger breasted, more hardcore, better version of Ikki Tousen, but if it's fists and tits you want, give that one a watch.
Tastes Like: Melons.



Fafner DVD 1 - Arcadian Project + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $39.98 07/05/2005
Fafner DVD 1 - Arcadian Project
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 07/05/2005

For anyone who's ever asked: “What should I watch? Evangelion or RahXephon?” here's the simple answer: Watch Fafner. Not because it's better than any one of those shows, mind you, but because you knock out two birds with one disc by watching this inferior rip-off. Picture this scenario: life is great on a peaceful island, until one sordid day. When monster-things start descending from the sky, the only thing that can protect the island is a giant robot called Fafner. Suddenly, several things are revealed: the island is actually a military stronghold, the kids were all grouped together in the event they'd be called to help the military, and as it turns out, the island isn't what it seems. In reality, the rest of Japan was obliterated ages ago, but because of a holographic sky, nobody knew they were all alone. If you're recognizing more than a few similarities with both Eva and RahXephon, that's only the beginning. Heck, they even make it just as confusing as both those shows, and in more ways than one. Not only does the story require viewers to take dozens of logical leaps, but there are too many characters with not enough face time, and they all look almost exactly the same, to boot. Overall, I was just not impressed with this first disc. If you're new to anime, you might enjoy this as an introduction to giant robot shows (with gorgeous production values to match), but if you've been around long enough to recognize clichés, this is only worth watching once on the off-chance that it branches into something a little more creative, and a lot more breathtaking.

Related Products: What, do I really have to say it again?
Tastes Like: Leftovers. At the end of the week, if you're really desperate to get rid of them, you just throw them in a huge bowl and stick them in the microwave.



Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite DVD 2 - Lost in Kamakura
Geneon 100 min. 2/3 $29.98 03/22/2005

Considering how much I hate maid shows, detested the first volume of this series, and abhor the rest of the Hanaukyo franchise, I am thoroughly ashamed to admit that I had fun watching this disc. Kicking off to a hilarious start, the volume ushers everyone along to Comic Manga Market where the maids are suckered into selling doujinshi—in cosplay. From Hellsing to Sugar: A Little Snow Fairy and so much more, the costume cameos had me rolling in a nerdy sort of way, and when it came time for the surprise nod to Mahoromatic, I was enjoying every minute of it. It helps immensely that the second volume spends less time on nipples and breasts than on quirky fun and the beginnings of the main story arc. The characters are shocked to discover a huge mansion hidden under the foundations of the preexisting ones, which may actually have something to do with why Mariel's been acting so distant. It'd be a huge lie to say that these episodes have any more depth or intelligence than the last batch, but they're much more interesting. Be it softball games or booby-trapped corridors (har), the episodes are a lot more like your typical brainless character-oriented girly fluff (ala Broccoli stuff) than the skeaze fest they were before. I can't envision anyone wanting to see this junk more than once, but if you're aching for a hands-free laugh, this may just be the thing to cheer you up.

Related Products: With the huge cast and all the quirky adventures they have, the atmosphere reminds me a lot of Galaxy Angel. Only, that show's a lot better.
Tastes Like: Cherry Kool-Aid. It's kind of gross and it probably gives you cancer, but even grown-ups will admit to wanting a secret taste of that watery tripe every now and then.



Thanks for reading, and join me again next week!

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