Shelf Life
Band of Brothers

by Bamboo Dong, Mar 24th 2008

After my brief disappearance, I am back in full swing! I passed my prelims, so I am stuck in grad school for the long haul! Woohoo!!... I think. Hm. Anyway, it's great to back, so let's have fun.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

I totally dig that Viz has been releasing quite a few manga-based live-action lately. I had the pleasure of checking out Lovely Complex, which is as delightfully bizarre as it is cute. Based on the manga by Aya Nakahara, the film is a romantic comedy about two people who have complexes about their heights. Otani has always been shorter than average, and Koizumi has always been taller than average, but they enjoy a fun friendship full of bickering. When she falls for him, though, she has to overcome both their issues and try to convince him that height really isn't an issue.

The movie has plenty of silly moments, but that's what it makes it so weird and fun. It has plenty of random interludes and repeating gags, like the homeroom teacher trying on different wigs, or a karaoke video with a pimped out wannabe rapper, and even cut scenes from a fake bishonen dating sim. The overall effect is a little jarring at times, but if the emphasis is on quirk, then they totally pulled it off. The actors are a crack-up, too, especially some of the side characters. Koizumi's meaty sister was one of my favorites, and the flamboyant Mr. Maitake that helps Otani realize his feelings totally rocked my boat. Teppei Koike, who plays Otani, looks ridiculously old (despite his young age of 22), but hey, who am I to deprive Japanese fans of their bouncy idols.

Even if you're not a fan of the manga, though, this is something that can be enjoyed. It's not going to win any Best Picture awards anytime soon, but it's a good time. It doesn't follow the events of the original story terribly closely, but if you're willing to take it for what it is—a goofy rom-com about an unlikely couple—then you won't be disappointed.[TOP]

Moving onto something a bit more morbid and serious, I decided to give Hell Girl volume 4 a try. Various forum users had mentioned that the series gets better around here, and I'd be mostly inclined to agree. It's definitely shaking up its usual patterns a bit more, and things are slightly less predictable now. Slightly, because so far, there has yet to be a character who didn't pull the red string, despite the reporter Hajime's best efforts.

Still believing that it's wrong for anyone to kill someone, regardless of grievance or cause, Hajime has now taken it upon himself to try to stop anyone he can from pulling the string. He hasn't been successful yet, but he has angered quite a few of Hell Girl's cohorts, who now see him as a pesky annoyance. As a result, he occasionally finds himself in a bit of trouble, but as of right now, he's still alive and kicking. With this volume, some of the Hell-worthy crimes have included dog-killing and murder. There's also one that involves a creepy giggling child, which is a staple for most horror flicks. The series even pulled out another dream sequence—something it hasn't done in a while. Still, after getting tired of the nightmares after the first volume, I almost groaned when the victim descended into hallucinations.

This volume is much better than previous ones, and it really looks as though this series keeps getting better by the disc. I'm still not completely sold on it, though, as I can't bring myself to really care about Ai and her helpers, because I've realized by now that I'm not going to get any character exposition anytime soon. I just hope the last couple of volumes end in some kind of eye-opening episode where the events start to deviate from the norm. Sure, it's better, but it's still not great.[TOP]

For all the chicks out there who don't want to watch shows about sending bad people to Hell, there's always the option of good ol' shoujo fluff. If you missed out on the pink pop Peach Girl the first time around, you can now grab the series in a fold-out boxset. There's love and jealousy, hatred and betrayal, and if you find yourself secretly watching junk like The Hills, well, this show is much better.

The title character of Peach Girl is Momo, an athletic girl who has her eyes set on a boy she's about to finally confess to. Happiness is hard to come by, though, when your best friend is a backstabbing, grating, highly irritating (What? I don't dislike her at all.) witch who wants everything you have. Sae is used to being the center of attention all the time, and she'll stoop to ridiculous lows just to steal Momo's crush, like spreading rumors, or even donning a wig to try and get him into the sack. She's a villainess to end all villainesses, and it's easy to develop a healthy case of hatred against her.

Drama doesn't just start and end with a crush, though. Before the series is over, the characters will have been to hell and back—the kind of hell that can only be exacerbated by the horrors of high school. Between love triangles and pregnancy scares, Peach Girl rivals some of the chick dramas on TV.

Fair warning, though—this isn't the show to watch if you want to retain your composure. The antics of Sae are enough to stir up the anger in the most stoic of viewers, and having to watch the sweet heroine battle against her is almost too much to bear sometimes. Luckily, all of the characters manage to change over the course of the series, leading to a melodramatic rollercoaster of The OC proportions.

The boxset is also a great purchase for those who want all the discs in one place, but don't want to go through the embarrassment of buying that pink purse that came with the artbox. There are plenty of guys who watch this show, and having to buy a purse just isn't cool. Even if you tell the cashier that it's for your sister. With the kind of mental anguish that I suffered watching the first few (or five) discs, though, I don't know that I'd actually watch this series a second time. For fans of messy romances and serious cat-fighting, it's at least worth a rental. The catty girls are fun to watch, Sae is bitchy as hell, and let's face it—that's fun. Drama's a drag to have in real life, but if it's on your screen, then there's no better way to kill some time, especially during a girls' night out. I recommend lots of cupcakes and a quart of ice cream.[TOP]

Up next is another Funimation release, the first volume of Black Blood Brothers. In line with all their other catchy little taglines (most of which are unintentionally laughable), this one has the winner: Eternal ronin. Final vengeance. The first of three volumes, this 12-episode series is another one of those vampire shows where the main character has a neat weapon and occasionally kills other vampires. The main character also wears a ridiculous red coat and a red hat, but I don't want to draw any comparisons because that wouldn't be fair to other, better vampire shows.

The premise of Black Blood Brothers isn't very original. Long ago, humans and vampires were at bloody odds with each other, but eventually they were allowed to coexist in the Special Zone. However, a new bloodline of super vampires has risen up, one that can rapidly turn others into one of their kind. Called the Kowloon Children, apparently they're extremely evil, and all the humans are trying to wipe them out. Because everyone likes vampire slayers who are also vampires, the main character Jiro is one such enigma. He's descended from a proud line of vampires and although he hasn't hunted his own kin in quite some time, recent events have forced him to once again draw his Silver Blade and become the legendary Kin Killer.

Here's the deal. Everybody likes vampire shows, but there's nothing more tragic than a mediocre vampire show. In that case, it's like, “Hey, this is neat! Too bad I could watch another one with a similar story line that's actually better!” Black Blood Brothers isn't a bad show (it's actually fairly interesting), but I have no overwhelming yearn to watch the next volume. It's also just not paced very well. I kept being surprised every time an episode ended, because I felt like nothing happened. There's also so much slapstick in it that I find it very hard to take any of the characters seriously. Who cares about the fate of the world when people can't stop joshing around for two minutes?

There are also some scene snippets that don't really fit in yet. You get to see a scene where a scientist appears to be doing some kind of research on humans, and turning them into monsters. One can only assume that this involves the blood of Kowloon Children, but is that really a necessary part of the story? Are the bad guys not bad enough that the story absolutely needs some shady scientist as a backup villain?

Between all the slapstick, the random bits borrowed from other vampire shows, and the cheesy brotherly undertones that show you how “human” vampires really are, it's hard to really be gung-ho about what's going on. The action scenes are lame too, because once you've seen one vampire bullet shield, you've seen them all. Maybe the last eight episodes will be brilliant, but right now, I'm a little bored.[TOP]

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

This week's shelves are from Scotland, thanks to Derek Izatt. His collection strategy is "impulsive, indecisive and broad-tasted." Well hey, looks like you have some pretty good taste, Derek.

I think I used to have those same shelves, but mine never looked that neat.

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


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