Shelf Life
Coyote Ugly

by Bamboo Dong, Jan 15th 2007

Shelf Worthy
Solty Rei v.1
Rental
Best Student Council v.1
Utawarerumono v.1
Coyote Ragtime Show v.1
How is it that every major highway in California has six lanes in either direction, but is always busy every single day from 7AM to 8PM? I thought driving through New York City en route to Jersey was bad (and anyone who's done the same thing will agree), but this eternal constipation of traffic in the Golden State is ridiculous.

With that kind of traffic, it almost makes you never want to visit out-of-city friends, go shopping, or explore anywhere outside of your city. And if you commute… well, that just stinks. So to take my mind off the abysmalness of traffic and the menacing orange haze that's been hovering over the mountains for the past week, let's start this column off on the right foot and talk about puppets.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Humanoid puppets generally scare me. They're not as frightening as, say, store mannequins, but they're still rather discomfiting to look at, with their big gaping mouths and their namby-pamby lip flapping. The ones in Sesame Street, with their saucer-like Pac-Man mouths are the most frightening, because there's just something so sinister about their bulging eyes and their unnatural grimaces.

Needless to say, the puppet in Best Student Council… really kind of freaks me out. His beady eyes, his ever-nonplussed tuft of hair, and those champing mandibles are more than enough reason for me to be concerned every time he says something. And the fact that you can't ever really tell if his words of wisdom are coming from his owner's mouth, or if he's (heaven forbid) alive… eh.

Regardless, he's definitely one of the stars of the show, which is in itself an interesting combination of kookiness, laughs, and high school anime clichés. The title of the series is derived from the Maximum Authority-Wielding Best Student Council, an organization at a prestigious all-girls academy that not only has more power than the school administrators, but also has its own intel and assault divisions and routinely brings down bad guys. Tossed into the middle of it all is Rino Rando, a relatively clueless girl who's just transferred into the school, but has already been elected to the BSC and has been chosen to be the Secretary. Oh, and she's the owner/host of Puuchan, a puppet that accompanies her wherever she goes.

It becomes apparent later on in the disc that the wealthy and adored BSC president has hidden reasons for keeping Rino close, but for the most part, the first few episodes are driven by comedy. Whether or not you'll appreciate the show, though, will largely depend on your forgiveness for clichés. If you're not familiar with the high school comedy genre of anime, or if you don't mind tried and true gags, you'll likely have fun with this series. If you've been around the anime block a few times though, the jokes will be much more familiar (and maybe even stagnant) to you. Things like cooking contests, rich rival millionaires competing for heir/ess hearts, and legions of unlikely combatants will have you thinking of everything from Negima to Hanaukyo Maid Team…with a puppet. Still, it all comes back to your forgiveness for the trite; if you're easily entertained by high school comedies, this one will have you chuckling.[TOP]

As far as clichés go, it makes me wonder if the longer I watch anime, the more cynical I will become about them. It's the same for any genre or medium, really. If you watch a lot of teeny bopper movies, you'll be able to predict the climax and the denouement from the trailer; the same goes for fantasy novels, grocery store “romantic thrillers,” and everything else. Still, there's something to be said for carbon copy entertainment. If it worked the first time, why not the second?

That was my process going into Solty Rei, which in two words, is “very Gonzo.” If you've seen a lot of Gonzo shows, then you know exactly what that statement means. You're certain to get fabulous artwork, fluid animation, someone with a biorobotic limb of some variety, and a guaranteed good time. Whether or not the story is entirely original… eh, it doesn't matter so much, because you'll probably having enough fun that you won't notice.

In the distant future, the world is in a sad state of disrepair. An aurora is perpetually in the sky, with the entertaining side effect that if you fly too high, you get blown up. For whatever reason, ten years prior, there was an explosion so gnarly that people had random limbs shorn off their body. As a result, almost everyone has robotic limbs of some variety, which is prime reason to install firearms all over your body.

Of course, this also means that the world is filled with dangerous criminals, so like every society that's crawling with bad guys, the bounty hunting industry is alive and well. The lead character himself is a bounty hunter whose sole purpose in life is to find his daughter, who “vanished” during the big explosion. His life's taken for another turn when a girl falls from the sky and saves his life. Sprightly and kind, the girl ends up saving his hide again and again, and like all happy first discs, he grudgingly accepts her into his life.

Solty Rei is one of those series that, once you start watching, it's pretty hard to put down. This isn't just because of the story, which is rather predictable at times, but rather, the whole package. Like all Gonzo shows, the combination of the gorgeous visuals, the dark atmosphere, and the quiet characters works well to create a captivating atmosphere. If you find yourself interested in futuristic post-apocalypse shows, this one will have you watching from start to finish. It's not the most novel series to come to town recently, but as a package deal, it works well.[TOP]

For those who have seen Solty Rei, though, was anyone else reminded of Mahoromatic? With the squeaking, moving tufts of hair that just out from the side of her head? They're not the only two characters like that, either. A lot of girls in anime seem to have hair that not only makes noises, but are also mobile. Is this a Japanese thing? Or are there examples of this in other country's pop culture that I've just missed? Maybe the Japanese have their moving hair, and we have our girls with their Uggz.

If you're thirsting for more anime girls, though, look no further than Coyote Ragtime Show. Gosh. If there's one thing that series has, it's a lot of girls. Not just any kind of girls. Dangerous girls with guns and frilly skirts. That's original.

For anyone that loves their anime to be steeped in blood and peppered with bullet holes, Coyote Ragtime Show is the stuff of dreams. It's the kind of mind-blowing, exhilarating action show that swoops from the skies, clouding everything in a rain of lead, angry punches, and loud passionate music.

Sometimes.

Unfortunately, those moments are sporadic and far in between. When the series isn't bathing itself in blood and anguish (which is most of the time, sadly), it's cycling through a gallery of stock females (Butch, Bitch, Beautiful, Brainy, Brash™ x 20) and vainly trudging its way through a vapid storyline that seems to only exist in order to bring on more girls with guns. A dangerous criminal is on the loose and he has his eyes set on billions of dollars worth of hidden pirate booty. Along with his minute daughter, he and his bros are willing to risk life and limb for this bounty, but he's not alone. Fast on his trail are a busty investigator and a crack team of Lolita-frocked girls whose only mission is to kill. When they're not killing, they're busy making insipid comments like, “I just cleaned this dress” and “This one's fresh off the rack.” Insightful. Sadly, that's largely what the show is like—action scenes sewn together by giggly girls and men hollering about what it's like to be a renegade.

Coyote Ragtime Show is ultimately made for someone with a very short attention span. The show itself has a very short attention span. It could be so entertaining if it just took its violence and ran with it—maybe even create a solid story to go along with it, but instead, it can't seem to decide what it wants to do with the time in between scenes.[TOP]

Then again, the alternative is a show where it knows exactly what it wants to accomplish, but never bothers going for it in the first disc. The show I'm referring to is Utawarerumono, a show you've probably never heard of before.

Let's start with the main problem. The main problem is that the events of the series rely heavily on a complicated backstory about gods, genomics, and war (I know this because I read the Wikipedia entry.). However, none of this is actually mentioned. Instead, the show starts after all that's over, and while it alludes to some sinister past through momentary flashbacks, it largely plays out like a long-winded folktale.

The main character is introduced as a man who was found in the woods outside a small village. For whatever reason, he has a mask stuck on his face that can't be removed. He has no idea who he is and how he got there. Nobody knows. But hey, he seems like a nice guy, so everyone loves him, especially since he helps them slay evil tigers and scare off bad guys.

If you've ever read the Odyssey, you can almost get a feel for what this series is like. It starts in the middle of things, takes forever to ramble about a few trivial details, and eventually dips back into time to tell a lavish story about how the main character got to where he is. I wouldn't really call Utawarerumono an epic of Homer-like proportions, but it treats itself far too seriously much the same way. It's nice that the story is trying to slowly set things up and trying to ease viewers into things, but the pacing is so slow and the events seem so incredibly trivial, that it's hard to not get bored after an episode or two.

If you have the patience to slowly plod through this series, you may be rewarded in the end. I'm not sure. But for right now, there are much more exciting things you could be doing with your time than watching Utawarerumono. You could be watching girls in dresses shoot guns instead.[TOP]

Anyway, that's it for this installment. Now, on to other things.

This week's Shelf Obsessed is brought to you by Jeff Quinlan.

Title he digs: Ninja Nonsense vol. 1 – The Legend of Shinobu

As darkness swallows up the humble town, a shadowy figure takes flight. Zipping from rooftop to rooftop, griping the handle of its sheathed blade, it hones in on its target. The figure lands without a sound, draws the stainless metal from its side and makes its first strike.

If this is what you'd expect to see when you pop in the first volume of Ninja Nonsense: The Legend of Shinobu, then man are you going to be disappointed. The screwy, zany and boob-obsessed ninjas of Headmaster Onsokumaru's ninja training academy are the complete opposite of the traditional martial arts soldiers of the night. In this wild 4-volume, 12-episode series brough to you by The Right Stuf International, you're more likely to pee yourself laughing than you are to gain any insightful wisdom of the ages.

We could start by discussing the army of identical ninja students lead by their perverted sensei, but fans want to hear more about Shinobu, the school's only female trainee. She's trying her best to learn the master ninja arts, but with a student body who cares more about HER student body, she's not going to get far. Of course, her complete determination makes her completely oblivious to that fact. Luckily she has a new friend, Kaeda, to swat away the leeching males. The ninjas constant pursuit of catching the slightest glimpse of a patch of bare skin on poor Shinobu's body is essentially the only semblance of plot you'll find. But that's okay, great comedies are far and few.

Speaking of plot, don't expect much continuity since the episodes are completely random, especially considering that each episode is broken into two sub-stories. The art isn't anything stunning, but the bright and solid colors make it a decent quality. The music is very much enjoyable with it's energetic opening and closing themes bracketing a soundtrack you're find in a more serious ninja-type series. Fits in quite appropriately, actually, something I wouldn't have expected given the un-serious nature of the show.

All in all, Ninja Nonsense is exactly what the title says it is: nonsense. But that makes for great fun. In the spirit of Galaxy Angel and Excel Saga, we get hilarious comedy with insane situations, all tied together to make a fun ride. Highly recommended.

The Collection

199 discs? We all know he's added DVDs since then, too…

His Proud Nerd Moment
"The Nerdiest Thing I've Ever Done.... ummmm, I dunno, I work for an anime convention in Boston, that's pretty dorky, haha. That and I'm obsessed with anime maids, haha... even my anime nerd friends think that's beyond nerdy."

Alright, what do you think? Is Ninja Nonsense worth getting for the laughs? Is Onsakumaru really obsessed about boobs? Talk about it over in the forums!

Want to alert us to a current release that's got you all up in a tizzy? Send your own submission to Shelf Obsessed!

I'm looking for three things:
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.

Thanks for reading!!


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