Shelf Life
A Love Like Winter

by Bamboo Dong, Dec 18th 2006

Shelf Worthy
Elfen Lied Thinpak
Hellsing v.1
Paradise Kiss v.1
Rental
Full Metal Panic Thinpak
Lupin III Movie Collection 2
Perishable
Mouse DVD Collection
The winter holidays are the best time of the year. It doesn't matter what religion you are, how you celebrate your time off, or if you're the biggest Scrooge McGrump on the planet—you don't have to go to work, and that's all that matters. If there's company/department-sponsored libation to celebrate not working, even better. So while you're all cozy in your homes, sleeping until half past noon, sigh with bliss, heat up some cocoa, pop some Excedrin, and start thinking about what you can give the anime-loving nerd in your life this gift-giving season. If you're at a total loss, hopefully this column will give you some ideas.

Oh, and you may notice that this column looks different from the last. I'm still working on making this a great product that we can all enjoy, so it'll be changing from week to week until everyone's satisfied. Until then, if you have any feedback about the column or the layout, pop on over to the forum and let me know your thoughts! Thanks for reading, and as is always the case, welcome to Shelf Life.

One of the toughest things about giving anime as presents is you're always stuck wondering one of three questions. 1) I know s/he likes this series, but does s/he already have this volume, or the ones before it? 2) If I get my friend this DVD, would s/he prefer the limited edition with the artbox? 3) If I get that person the artbox, would they then feel obligated to buy the rest of the series? Valid questions. Too bad I don't have the answers, so good luck with that one. At least anime fans aren't impossible to shop for, unlike most parents.

Personally, I got my Christmas present when Paradise Kiss showed up at my door. I am madly in love with this series and everything related to it. From its snazzy use of Franz Ferdinand, to its stylish artwork, to the rose-scented art card inside that makes your anime shelf smell like a JC Penny restroom, I love everything about this series. Spun from the genius mind of manga creator Ai Yazawa, this series brings her magnificent creation to life and does a damn fine job of it. Between the subtle character designs and soft-spoken dialogue, to the random screen wipes of multi-legged creatures jabbering across, it captures the intensity of a story that uses passionate characters to fire up a decidedly low-conflict setting.

Yukari is a hardworking high school student just like any other—she goes to school every day and works her butt off, but there's something about her humdrum life that just keeps her restless. Between her mother's pressuring and the crunch to get into a good college, life is nothing but studying, cramming, and doing homework. Everything is changed when she gets scouted on the street to become a model for a motley group of design students who need someone to strut their dress on the runway. There she meets four of the most delightful characters ever created—a cold (but handsome) designer with a penchant for pinstripe suits, a bubbly girl who lives for her emotions, a loud-talking punk rocker, and an elegant transvestite who plays the role of the default mother.

There really isn't anything that makes it “Scandalous!!” or “WOW!”—it's the characters and their emotions that transforms this series into something powerful. For a story about love and teenage rebellion, Paradise Kiss is one of the best series of its kind ever created, and you want that special gift to give a lucky lady in your life, this is it. Bonus points if you wrap it in turquoise and adorn it with turquoise roses and drooping pearls. Triple bonus points if you take a picture and send it to me. [TOP]

Of course, if the person you were giving the gift to was a male, I'd maybe rethink the Paradise Kiss. Not to say that men can't enjoy it—one of my closest male friends loves it so much, he agreed to dress up as George to pair up with my Yukari cosplay. (Gift ideas for cosplayers: A gift card to JoAnn's, a new sewing machine, a dressform… even just some bitchin' accessories. Seriously, there's nothing more amazing then giving small things to fuel someone's nerdiest hobbies.)

But hey, not everyone is going to be stoked about getting ParaKiss—especially if they're a boy. My recommendation? Geneon's hot new release of Hellsing Ultimate. With two versions out (the regular edition, and the two-disc special version in the sexy tin), the first volume includes the first episode of this heart-pounding new OVA. Wait, stop, I know half of you just said, “One episode?!?!” Yeah, I know, that stinks, but it's worth it. Dark, melodramatic, and very well-written, this new OVA gives the original a serious run for its money, and I don't know a single Hellsing fan that wouldn't enjoy getting a taste of this new rendition.

Retelling the story from the beginning, the first episode introduces Arucard, Seras, and the Hellsing organization all over again, this time with more visual flair, better fights, and more style than ever thought possible. The pacing is dead on, the story is concise and edgy, and overall, this is a remake that deserves all the accolades it can get. With Hellsing getting its first taste of Iscariot and its first suspicions of a shadow organization manufacturing vampires, there's plenty of conflict waiting in the sidelines to drive an already riveting story. I also have to give serious props to the folks at New Generation Pictures—I normally watch everything subtitled, but the dub for this thing blew me away. The snappy Anglo accents are dead on, and all the lines are delivered with zest. I loved the original Hellsing dub, but something about hearing Alexander yelling in an Irish accent again made me realize why I love these characters. [TOP]

Still, giving a new series is always kind of a gamble for Christmas. Granted, it's better than giving tube socks, but if they hate the series, it's on your head. (Though even if you mess up, there's always birthdays to redeem yourself with. Might I encourage buying cool character goods instead? As useless as they might be, everyone loves merch. Everyone.) Luckily, there's always the option of boxsets, which have the benefit of giving the entire series all at once, and coming in delightfully distracting packaging.

For example, what better way to start off the new year than with a straight-up bloodbath? Hey, it's red. And green, if you count the gangrene and rotting limbs. I'm talking, of course, about Elfen Lied, a show that lets any guy fulfill his Cute Girl quota, all while satisfying any testosterone wishes for blood, guts, and watching pretty gals rip people's arms off. It's certainly not for everyone, but if someone you know has a bit of bloodlust, then they'd be hard pressed not to thank you for presenting them with the series conveniently packaged in a three-disc thinpak.

For those unfamiliar with the show, the heroine is a sweet pink-haired girl named Nyu who finds herself living with a teenaged boy after being found outside. Slightly clueless and with only the ability to say “Nyuuu,” you'd never guess that within her is a killer who can rip limbs off bodies with a slight flick of her mind. The product of a genetic experiment, she represents the perfect dichotomy between her own sweet self, and the monster that science has made her. The self-conflict within Elfen Lied isn't entirely unique, but the series is executed with such panache that it lends itself an air of beauty and danger. As far as the holidays go, this is a solid brick of good times. [TOP]

Then again, you could opt for much less blood and far more laughs with the wacky comedy that is Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu! Presented in all its shiny glory in one thinpak, this is the perfect gift for fans of the first (or both) Full Metal Panic! series. Made up of all the random one shot stories that permeate the novels, Fumoffu! is one big chance to see your favorite characters at their best.

Don't fear—there's still some action—but it's of a decidedly less serious nature than the series. Picture Sousuke setting off bombs in his locker to detonate love letters that he thinks are being planted by a spy. Yeah, that's the kind of humor that runs rampant in this show. If that's the kind of thing that makes your friend giggle like a schoolgirl or roll on the floor, then this is the thing to get them for Christmas. It's goofy without being too lame, it's action-packed without being too serious, and all around, it's just a crazy good time. There is one major caveat though—if the person has never seen Full Metal Panic!, it probably won't make too much sense. The scenes will still be kind of funny...but not nearly as funny as if you actually knew the characters and recognized why their antics were funny. This is great for fans of the series, but unless viewers are familiar with it, it might not be for them just yet. [TOP]

Personally though, I'm a fan of getting boxsets of movies. I love my anime shows, but I always feel mildly daunted at being faced with the possibility of having to sit down and breeze through a day's worth of anime. Especially since I know that once I start, I'm not going to want to stop. And if I do stop, I'll never pick it up again. That's why I'm all about getting a ginormous bunch of movies—I may not have the energy to marathon a show, but sit me down with one of those James Bond ultimate collections, and I'm set.

I think Funimation feels the same way. Or if not, then they at least love movies as much as I do. And spies. With what is one of the rare few thinpaks that Funimation ever releases, they've presented us with the Lupin the 3rd Movie Pack: “Final Haul.” Classily packaged, it sticks five movies onto three discs, including Farewell to Nostradamus, Island of Assassins, Crisis in Tokyo, The Columbus Files, and Missed By A Dollar.

If you've ever seen any of the Lupin movies, you'll know that they're wicked fun. Lupin III is a snazzy guy who can steal anything he sets his mind on, which usually ends up being a girl. He's not nearly as attractive as Pierce Brosnan or as brooding as Daniel Craig, but he does have a crazy arsenal of fun gadgets, a trusty Walther P-38, and help from his trusty friends. The best thing about these movies really isn't in the actual treasure hunt, or even the treasure, but how Lupin and his pals react to every step of the trip. True, everyone can probably recite the generic Lupin Movie Recipe to the last chase scene, it's still fun to watch him and the boys jump through windows, pull out nutty disguises, or flail their way out of a crisis. If you know any Lupin fans in your life, I guarantee this will make them wet their pants in glee, no joke. [TOP]

Though... maybe them wetting their pants isn't such a great gift. I remember back in the day when you could get away with giving people a bag of mini-marshmallows and attaching a lame little note saying that they got snowman poop for Christmas. Now that I'm all grown up, I can't pull stunts like that anymore. I can still, however, be an asshole and dole out sarcastic gifts that I feel are well worth the money. This works especially well for anime fans, because you can pretend to pander to their hobbies, yet give them the most insulting present you can think of. Next to pornography (reserve this for when you know they'll be opening presents in front of grandma!!), the next best thing is to give them a gift that screams, “I hate you, here's some anime.”

I bring this up because I was thumbing through the release calendar and saw something that actually made me do a spit-take. Mouse—The Complete DVD Collection. Due on December 19.

There are several things that I like to casually call, “the bane of my life.” Examples that come to mind are gas prices, Masami Obari, and people who talk in movie theaters. Mouse is another one. It is arguably one of my least favorite shows on the planet, and the fact that Media Blasters is re-releasing this anti-gem right before the holiday season is amazing. I'm sure there's an entire legion of fans out there who love this show more than candy, but it strikes a special nerve for me. For those who have never been introduced, Mouse is about thieves and tits. The main character is an art teacher who enjoys the company of a few other teachers, all of whom happen to have large racks. During the day, they titillate their students with their subjects, and at night, they go out and steal stuff. However, the most crucial part about their job is that they wear minimal clothing. As everyone knows, the more clothes you wear on a sting operation, the more likely you are to trip laser sensors or be caught by enemies. Thus, little clothing.

It's not just the breasts, either. I'm okay with breasts. It's the fact that there is such an abundance of breast, that everything takes a backseat, like the story. Who needs an exciting story when you can have seductive teachers prance in at every opportunity and shake their booty to make everything better? Alas, me. But heck, if you have any friends who love sleazy shows, maybe this will end up being the perfect Christmas gift. Since MB decided to release a Mouse collection though, I can only pray that maybe someday they'll release Eiken on HD DVD.

Anyway, that's all for this week's Shelf Life. Good luck battling all the holiday crowds, and if you live anywhere near a big city, have fun wasting hours and hours of your life on packed freeways. I405, I'm looking at you.

Okay kids, here's the dealio. I got a few emails from readers (along with some pretty sweet pictures), but I'm not entirely satisfied. When I said I wanted a quick review of a product that you were digging, I seriously meant a “review.” 250 words. Not just, “I like this show because it has a nice story” or “I'm into this series cuz the chicks are neat.” That's all well and good, but I'd really like to let everyone hear your opinions.

So let's try this again: I'm looking for three things from everyone:

  1. A brief (250 words) review of a recent release that's stoking your rocket. Love it, hate it, or wish you could buy it just to throw it at somebody, give me your thoughts!
  2. A picture of your anime collection. Should we be jealous?
  3. The nerdiest thing you've ever done. I dress up as cartoon characters—what's your poison?
If you want to give a brief blurb about yourself or include a photo, all the better. Remember, this section is all about you. Oh, and send everything to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com.

This special feature is set to go live in two weeks, so don't be shy!! Who knows, maybe people will be so impressed with your anime collection, it'll send all the girls a runnin' towards you.


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