Shelf Life
Beck to the Future

by Bamboo Dong, Feb 18th 2008

Happy Presidents' Day, my fellow Americans. And, happy birthday to me. I turn 23 today, which means I still have two years left to audition for The Real World. All I want for my birthday is a giant tub of Pinkberry yogurt, and the ability to throw DVDs into a giant void that will also spit out any disc I want at the press of a button. A completely organized shelf that takes up zero space? That would be a dream come true.

Welcome to Shelf Life, folks. Let's celebrate this day in style.

First off, we need music. Lots of music. Thank goodness for the final volume of Beck, which not only cranks up the noise with the band's Greatful Sound appearance, but also ties up all the loose knots with a bittersweet ending that's both satisfying and a little hollow. Right before the band goes on stage, an argument causes a rift with the members, leading to their premature breakup. It isn't until Koyuki makes the choice to step out on stage by himself and give it his all that all the band members finally come to their senses and decide to give it one last shot.

What ends up transpiring after that is a little sad, given the long journey the audience has been privy to, but it's as much of a happily-ever-after that can be expected. I only wish that the ending was a bit more fleshed out, rather than just a hastily thrown together montage of images, but it got the job done.

Overall, Beck has been a fantastic series to watch. I've enjoyed following the characters as they grew to respect each other and chase their dreams. My only complaint is some of the extraneous backstories they tried to throw in, like the murder of Erica Blige; truthfully, I don't think they handled the Lucille (or in the dub, Prudence) story angle as gracefully as they could have, either. Still, I felt a rush of happiness when the band finally “hit in America,” and it was during that end scene when I realized what a positive experience the series has been. Watching Koyuki's development from dweeb to rock star was incredibly uplifting, and I loved every minute of it. I realize not everyone ends up loving Beck as much as I do, but everyone should at least give it a try.[TOP]

Next up on my party shuffle was, well, Shuffle. If you can't tell by the tagline (“Which girl will he choose?”) what kind of show this is, you ought to be slapped. As it were, I kept slapping my forehead every five minutes, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Cries of, “It's just entertainment! Jeeeez!” and “You're just biased against unimaginative harem fluff!!” aside, Shuffle is one of the most contrived harem shows I've ever seen. Every time something ridiculous happened, I became increasingly paranoid that there was a gas leak in my apartment, because surely, some of these scenes couldn't possibly have made it past the brainstorm phase. But, no, it was real.

The main character is Rin, an affable young man who's been living with his childhood friend, a cute girl named Kaede. She cleans and cooks for him, takes care of his every single whim, and lets us know that, “Taking care of you is what I live for.” Thank God for having notable life goals. Turns out, both their mothers were killed several years ago, so it's just them—tragically, Kaede's father is away on business for 3-4 months. Bizarrely enough, all of their neighbors decided to move out at the same time, conveniently freeing up valuable real estate property for any cute transfer student(s) who might breeze into town.

Shockingly, two transfer students are introduced the next day—Sia, the daughter of the King of Gods, and Nerine, the daughter of the King of Devils. Apparently, gods and devils are able to travel freely betwixt the worlds, which is why there are elfin-looking gals all over Rin's school. Both girls have decided they want to marry Rin, something their respective dads are stoked about. Eventually, more girls are thrown into the mix, but in the end, which girl will he choose??????

You know, I'm all for magic powers (which Nerine has, by the way), vampires, demons, giant robots, and what not, but when humans no longer act like humans, I start to feel weary. All I ask for is a little reality when it comes to emotions. I just want one character to say, “Hold on, this is nonsense,” or maybe even, “Actually, I have no desire to cook for you. Make your own damned lunch.” Also, some of the female characters are frightfully stupid. It's nice that Nerine has zero domestic prowess whatsoever, but anyone who doesn't know how to chop a cucumber or crack eggs is an idiot. If you have to crack two baskets of eggs just to figure out how to not drop in the shell, you should be sent back to kindergarten.

Despite my apparent disgust for the show, I don't think Shuffle is terrible. I just think it's inane and ridiculous. However, it's kind of fun to watch, and almost enjoyable, in that ironic sort of way. On the positive side, it has a lot of cute girls, plenty of characters to go ga-ga over, and it's nice that Rin is a decently down-to-earth guy. At least he thinks it's ridiculous too, which is a refreshing touch of sanity in a crazy world. The series is incredibly contrived, though, and anyone who thinks otherwise is far less jaded than I, and of that I'm envious.[TOP]

A little sad that I didn't have my own personal maid childhood friend to do all my cooking and cleaning, I decided to wash away my sorrows by watching the third volume of Nozomi's The Third. For whatever reason, this show has always bored me. It's not a bad show, but it's not terribly interesting, either. The main character is reasonably neat, the story is decently paced, but nothing jumps out. By the time I'd watched this volume, I'd almost forgotten what happened so far, it was that unmemorable.

As you can see from the cover, volume three has creepy children. For whatever reason, mediocre action anime tend to have a huge fascination with dream sequences or illusion worlds, so I wasn't surprised at all when the characters wandered into an alternate reality bubble. I was even less surprised when Honoka ended up fighting herself. In previous episodes, we learned that there was a giant bubble called the Gravestone. The only things known about it was that it decimated everything in its path, and that The Third were planning on destroying it with a space gun. Naturally, Honoka ends up in front of it, because her third eye was telling her to go and check it out.

The most irritating thing about this show is how hard it tries to be vague and mysterious. Everyone speaks vaguely of things the audience isn't supposed to understand, and even when characters corner each other to ask for information, they always get noncommittal answers. For a while, this is okay, but being jerked around for three volumes is a surefire recipe for boredom. It's hard to maintain the motivation to keep watching a show if nobody is willing to tell me what may lay in store for me. If I was curious about what mysterious things may or may not lie ahead of me, instigated by some unknown force that may or may not affect me, I would just leave my apartment and experience what some people call “life.”

The Third has enough action-packed that if it was playing on a TV in front of me, I wouldn't mind watching it. I just wouldn't actively seek it out. There are so many other shows out there that this one just doesn't stand out enough. Rent it if you must, but I can't really find a reason to buy it.[TOP]

So because I'm staring at the copy of Fullmetal Alchemist Season 2, Part 1 in front of me, I have to relay the following anecdote. I recently hung out with a guy who confessed to me that he'd never watched FMA. It wasn't because he didn't like anime—he did—but because he was wary of the hype machine.

Let me say this: if there is one show out there right now currently being released that totally deserves the hype, it's Fullmetal Alchemist. It's been years since the series was first released, and even I'm a little sick of the FMA hubbub that followed, but I have to admit that it was a really great show. It made me love anime in that giddy I-need-to-IM-my-friends-to-talk-about-the-latest-episode! way and, every subsequent episode just fed my need for more.

If you didn't find the previous season naggingly creepy, then the second one will have you shaking in your boots a bit. Yearning for some more guidance, the Elric brothers seek out their old teacher Izumi. While there, they discover a young boy who has some interesting ties to both Ed and the teacher, a revelation that sends chills through the brothers. As they part ways from their mentor, they eventually find themselves separated from each other, each faced with terrifying discoveries and deadly encounters with homunculi.

For new or old fans of the show alike, these boxsets are a great idea. At an MSRP of $49.98 (with most stores selling them for $45 or under), they end up being even cheaper than the individually released Viridian discs. These even come with the original printed booklets, and they're packaged in sturdy plastic cases, which is a huge bonus. At $15/disc, you too could join the almighty hype machine and be one of the cool kids on the block. It's true.[TOP]

For that same $49.98, you could also get the entire Kiddy Grade series, although it's part of their Viridian collection. And yes, I took pictures.

When the series first came out, it had a decent fan following. The special edition of the first volume came with a stitched baseball cap that kind of made you look like a porn director, but it was astonishingly popular. Within a week of its release, sets were being sold on eBay for $100, because who doesn't want a hat that says “Kiddy Grade” on it? The best usage I ever saw of the hat was on the head of a rotund man who was also wearing knee socks, Birkenstocks, cargo shorts, and a stained Lumiere t-shirt, but I bet he didn't save massive bucks by buying this set.

Kiddy Grade is a good time. It follows the missions of the ES Force, a department of the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs that's responsible for law-keeping activities. The force's members are made up of teams of two, like the main characters, Éclair and Lumiere. Éclair's special weapon is a tube of lipstick, which can be used to draw out a rubbery substance that can be used like a whip. She also has a lot of superhuman abilities, which makes her pretty invincible. Her partner looks like she's 10 years old, but has the ability to control computers with her mind.

Throughout the first part of the series, the two run into a fair amount of bad guys ranging between terrorists to arms smugglers. Eventually though, the series takes a much more serious turn. As the girls learn more about who they are, they gain a certain awareness about the organization they work for, and its true intentions. By the time viewers get to the ending, it's nothing like how it started out. The first several episodes are a bit fluffy, but it culminates in an explosive ending that makes the entire journey totally worth it.

The Viridian boxes aren't 100% sturdy, but they're not a bad deal at all. There's no way to scratch the discs, and for all those environmentally conscious people out there, the packaging is made out of 30% recycled material. Plus, $45 for 600 minutes is an absolute steal. If you want a fun series with a lot of action and a good deal of punch, consider getting this.[TOP]

That's it for this time; thanks for reading!

This week's Shelf Obsessed pictures come from Robert of Chicago, IL. The pictures feature:

1. Dragon Ball Z, GT VHS tapes from Ginyu Saga to ending (including movies) 2. Complete collections and latest volumes of Anime seen in pics 3. Large list of current and next-gen games for all 3 consoles (also have handhelds, too)


Totally awesome, and totally organized. I'm super jealous.

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


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