Shelf Life
Blending In

by Bamboo Dong, Dec 10th 2007

Welcome to this week's Shelf Life, which is coming to you from NYAF. It's bitterly cold, but the cozy, gooey camaraderie of my fellow anime fans is keeping me warmer than a roasted peanut. Who needs the California sun when I can just snuggle against the bolus of fanboys drifting through the exhibitor's room? This is the life. The ANN crew has been busy all weekend, so this week's column will be a bit short, but enjoy our convention coverage, and keep yourself warm.

Welcome to Shelf Life—Super NYAF edition.

On those really boring summer days that occasionally occurred during my otherwise riveting childhood, I often had to turn to daytime television for entertainment. While I was always lukewarm about the double Jenny Jones / Ricki Lake one-two punch, they occasionally had those makeover shows with titles like, “I was a geek, but now I'm chic!” and “From drab to fab!”

I thought fondly of those final makeover reveals when I watched the first volume of The Wallflower, a show that strongly appealed to my girly side. Cute and funny, it takes the “let's transform this homely girl into a swan!” motif and runs with it in a way that serves plenty of laughs. Good looks come naturally to the four male leads, whose charming visages means that they're almost always followed by throngs of female admirers—including a quartet of goth-lolitas whose war cry of “goth, goth, loli, loli!” makes them one of the more interesting cliques out there. When the boys' landlord tells them that her niece is moving in, they're issued an interesting challenge: if they can transform her into a classy lady by the time the landlord gets back from vacation, they'll get free rent. If they fail, their monthly payment will triple.

The boys eagerly accept, not knowing that their target is a morose, solitary goth who bears an uncanny resemblance to the girl from The Ring. Having been jilted in the past by a boy who thought her too ugly, her self-esteem has completely corroded, and her only friends are skeletons and medical models. Little would they expect that when she's bent on destroying someone, she's actually quite the beauty.

Conceptually, The Wallflower may seem kind of shallow, but it ultimately places more emphasis on self-confidence than anything superficial. Sure, Sunako may have some pretty bad acne, and her eyebrows are pretty wild, but she's a beautiful girl when she has confidence, and that's ultimately what the show's trying to say. It's also nice to see a girl nosebleed all over a pretty boy, instead of the other way around. Sunako's mannerisms are hilarious, and between her love for the macabre, and her fear of beauty, she's easy to laugh along with, and she's easily the star of the show. I spent a good three-fourths of the volume chuckling to myself, and I can't wait to see more.

This is probably something that would appeal a lot more to female viewers than males, but there's enough humor in it to appeal to a fair amount of guys. The episodes are a little random and don't necessarily follow a definite story arc, but they show off the characters in a great way. Every girl needs to give this a try.[TOP]

As much as I enjoy girly shows like The Wallflower, I also have a sweet spot for the angsty and depressing. I wallow in sorrow like a pig wallows in mud, and I have the argyle-pattern-with-broken-hearts Converse shoes to prove it. Because of this, I immediately took a liking to the next title.

The third volume of Air is anything but uplifting, but its lackadaisical pace makes it almost peaceful, in a way. The series itself is pastel personified, and the last few tearjerker scenes are melancholy enough to leave you quiet for a good hour.

If it's been a while since you've seen the second volume, things can be a bit jarring, especially if you've forgotten what happened. The first episode continues the second arc that's set far in the past, explaining the origin behind the legendary girl with wings. Once that bit is over, it jumps back to the present again, to the third story arc. A retelling of the first arc from a crow's point of view, it shows things that were skipped the first time around, and focuses more on Misuzu's life, her emotions, her interaction with her mother, and to the strange man who came to town. And, if the last scene of the disc doesn't have you a little choked up inside, then you've got some tough resolve.

Overall, I can't say that I'm a big fan of the way that the story is arranged, with the way the second arc completely breaks up the flow of the narrative, but it does provide some crucial information about the first and last stories. However, because they're trying to cram as much exposition as they can into a small time frame, the characters don't get as well developed as those in the present time—and frankly, it's much harder to care about those in the past, especially when you just want to know what happens next.

Luckily, the conclusion of this volume is pretty satisfying, and even though it may leave a dull ache in your heart, it's chock full of warm, compassionate scenes that will make you glad you spent that extra two hours. The characters are amazingly sweet and easy to love, and if you've been following the first two volumes, then this is an absolute must. The third arc solidifies the series, and if you've been waffling on whether or not to give this series a go, just do it.[TOP]

Lastly on my list was the ever voluptuous Witchblade, the second volume of which has just as much bounce as the first. In fact, with the prolonged exposure to the two Cloneblades, there's more bounce than ever before, and if the cover is any indication to consumers, you'll get your money's worth.

That is… if you're really into gratuitous fanservice. Heck, the series is so obsessed with breasts that it's become a running joke to refer to the main character, Masune, as Masamune, which loosely translates to “big breasts.” Get it? Big breasts? Because she has big breasts? HAHA!!! If you want progressive anime, this is it, what with all the breast jokes, the money shots, and the orgasms that explode out of your sound system every time the girls get into a fist fight.

Oh, wait.

I'm all about fanservice, but at some point, it just starts being gross. But truly, this is a series that was made for those who revel in violence and action titles. Not an episode goes by without some serious fights, and if that's what drew you to this series, then this volume will not disappoint. It further explains the origin of the Cloneblades as well, shedding some valuable insight into the untimely fate of those who wield the Witchblade.

Ultimately, what you see is exactly what you get. If you've ever seen a trailer for this series, you'll know three crucial things about this series: there is fanservice, there is blood, there are women. Not having read the original Top Cow comics, I can't comment on the similarity in atmosphere between them, but fans of action shows will eat this up. Just don't expect to see too many role models.[TOP]

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

We're going overseas to the UK this week with Dom. He's been collecting anime since the 90s, and is still trying to replace all his old VHS tapes.

Want to show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!


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