Shelf Life
Rescue Rangers

by Bamboo Dong, Nov 5th 2007

Nothing is more fascinating than the Japanese idol industry. Nothing. Not even robots that can fish, bake bread with their eyes, and do the “Cha Cha Slide” by memory. Every time I wander around YouTube, I discover more idol groups, each with their own shtick. Now, I realize that I'm maybe the last person on the planet to listen to them, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finally heard AKB48, an idol group comprised of 48 girls who normally perform in groups of 16, but occasionally gather together into one giant happy group. At first I was appalled, and kind of disturbed, but their syrupy sounds slowly grew on me, like some kind of pop fungus that wouldn't go away. I had this song stuck in my head for at least a week.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

I thought perhaps I'd start off my week with something cute, and what's cuter than girls who fly around like airplanes? Little did I know that in the course of the next 30 minutes, I would roll my eyes at least 14 times, and be tempted to fling my dinner at my laptop. The lucky title I chose was Rescue Me: Mave-Chan, a delightful little diddy that throws itself at the mercy of anime fans, begging to be loved like a neglected has-been trophy wife.

According to this OVA, anime fans are sad, lonely nerds, whose only solace in life is to huddle in a corner, hugging body pillows and crying into a small platter of garlic Pringles. It spreads the message that anime characters can only exist within fans' hearts, and unless they're cherished constantly, they'll be gobbled up by oblivion. True story. One of the characters even notes wisely, “We're a microcosm of human society. We're popular when it's convenient for us to be so.”

Let it be stated that nothing ever good comes out of any anime series that uses the word “microcosm.”

Mave-chan samples from Yukikaze and Stratos 4, giving fans one last hurrah before the characters disappear into obscurity, or so it implies. It's not necessary to have seen either of those shows prior to viewing this completely standalone and random OVA, but unless you're a die-hard fan of Yukikaze, you really have zero reason to be watching this show. This one-shot stars a lonely geek who's always been afraid to venture out on his own and interact with others. He gets a free ticket to a Yukikaze/Stratos 4 convention, and heads off with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Upon arriving, he heads to the restroom, but ends up stumbling through a gateway into an anime world where plane-girls are busy shooting down monsters. They explain that they are merely figments of the fans' imaginations, but when a lot of fans gather in one area, their collective passion can sometimes open a portal into the anime world. Sadly, the dangers of “mass-produced anime” means that a lot of old heroines are getting swept under the rug, and are now under attack by Demons of Oblivion. The only thing that can save them is the Love of Anime, and passionate fans.

Really?

It's cute that this series is telling fans to remember why they fell in love with anime, but the way it does it absolutely ridiculous. Rescue Me: Mave-Chan is surprisingly bitter about new competition, which is very unbecoming. It's constant screams of Dear God, please love me! are intensely desperate, and frankly, if this OVA materialized as a real girl, it would lose every guy in 10 days. I don't even understand why this was even released. It's basically an excuse for nerds to sit in a circle and masturbate over why they love anime, but it's poorly written, lacks drive, and is cheesy as hell. Yeah, it's only $10, but with that kind of money, you could just buy a Mecha Musume figure and play with it forever.[TOP]

I was already rolling in a proverbial pit of girls—why stop now? Without a moment's hesitation, I popped in the second volume of Girl's High, an anime that delights some, and disgusts others. Personally, I love it. The camaraderie between the girls is endearing, and their foul-mouthed conversations crack me up. Anyone who's shocked by anything they say need to take their idealized image of ladylike behavior and take it down a few notches on the Reality Ladder.

A new character is introduced when one of the girls runs into a cute, gorgeous middle-schooler, who ends up being yuma's younger sister. Seemingly sweet, she wins over most of the girls right away, with the exception of her sister, who appears to dislike her quite a bit. Things get a bit strained when rumors start spreading about Ayano, and she immediately puts the blame on yuma. Later, the girls end up at a water park, where they accidentally get hit on by their skeezy teachers.

This show really isn't for the faint of heart, or those who want to protect their notions that all anime girls are cute, perfect, moe symbols of propriety. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to really feel moe towards any of these girls—even the one who looks like she could be four years old. The second you let your guard down, one of these girls will let loose an inappropriate comment, or force one of her friends to shave her bikini line. Girl's High has a fair amount of fan service, too, but it's not over-the-top enough that it would dissuade any interested female viewers from watching it, because frankly, we've all seen breasts and we've all been in girls' locker rooms before.

It's definitely nothing like other female-centric high school shows, like Azumanga Daioh, that's for sure. Girl's High is much more raw, and much more crude—an example that comes to mind is a scene in which one of the girls has to put up with getting swimming lessons from their buff, totally gross gym teacher. Unable to escape the situation, she writhes in agony while she inadvertently is made to brush against his pecs, and worse, his Speedo-clad man bag. This scene could have ended up being very, very wrong, but with the teacher's self-loving obliviousness, and the girl's obvious panic, it works very well for comedic effect.

At the heart of everything, though, the series is basically a story about high school friends who mean the world to each other. Even with all their dirty jokes and the gag humor, the girls are just trying to get through high school, all while having as much fun as they can. It's a great series, but truthfully, if gross humor isn't your cup of tea, nothing could make you enjoy this show. For all the high school-aged and college-aged gals out there, though, who miss what it's like to clown around with your friends and gossip about boys, weight gain, and puberty, this is a show well worth checking out.[TOP]

Of course, if you're just looking for some seriousness and some introspection, then there're other series out there that drastically fit the bill a bit more. One of those happens to be one of the best series released this year—Mushi-Shi.

The second disc of Mushi-Shi kicks off with much of the same patterning as the inaugural volume. A somewhat bizarre scenario is introduced, then looks away in time to see Ginko strolling through on his journey. The situation is explained, while he looks on and nods gravefully. He then decides to stick around and see the mushi for himself, and eventually, he does his thing and moves on. Within these five episodes, viewers are introduced to mushi that cause the daily death and rebirth of its hosts, ones that take the form of illusive rainbows, and even ones that cause burgeoning harvests at the cost of one life. While each new mushi is extraordinary and fascinating, the underlying themes of the series tie the episodes together wonderfully and make it a rewarding viewing experience.

Production-wise, Mushi-Shi is really something. The animation is gorgeous, and the muted tones look fantastic, giving it a really surreal feeling. The individual mushi are animated with a lot of care, and when they appear on the screen, you can almost believe that they are fundamental life forms. Overall, it's just a really magical series, and if you haven't seen it yet, you're really missing out.[TOP]

Joining the bevy of exorcist shows already on the market, Venus Versus Virus is ADV's new offering. While the series is a bit of a mouthful to say, the actual series is pretty straightforward in its execution—Sumire is a typical student whose life totally changes when an accident gives her the ability to see Viruses, demons that eat the souls of those who can see them. She ends up joining an agency called Venus Vanguard where she and a badass girl named Lucia go around exorcising viruses using bullets made from antivirus. Sumire pretty much sucks at everything involving combat, but when she comes into contact with the antivirus, she goes berserk and turns into a virus-killing monster.

It's a relatively entertaining show, but it doesn't really add anything to all the other exorcist shows out there. The only difference is that the “virus” mythology they're going for allows them to sample a bit from vampire shows, and try to draw in that same crowd. Still, it's nothing groundbreaking. People get possessed, the Venus Vanguard come in, and the victims get unpossessed.

The animation is nothing special, either. At times, it's even kind of bad. Even so, it's a fairly inoffensive show. True, it's not spectacular, but it's not terrible, either, and I'm willing to wager there's a big chunk of viewers who will enjoy the fast-paced action scenes and the cute girls. When it comes to surefire hits, girls butting heads with monsters always seems to get the job done, so undoubtedly, this will end up pleasing quite a few people. At the very least, it's a good way to kill some time, so if you're looking for a fun, simplistic action show to watch, stick this on your queue.[TOP]

That's it for this week. See you next time!

This week's shelves come straight from Puerto Rico, thanks to Giovannie Menendez.

All you really need to be happy is Kingdom Hearts and Rurouni Kenshin anyway.

Interested in showing off your shelves? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com! Also, since I have a small logjam of emails, if your collection has drastically changed since the last time you emailed me, feel free to send me updated pictures. Thanks!


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