Shelf Life
The Nana Diaries

by Bamboo Dong, Apr 6th 2008

Normally all of the traveling I do while writing Shelf Life involves conventions or something similar. This time, I'm going to be writing to you en route to central California whilst on my roadtrip to Monterrey. Earlier today, I stopped by Morro Bay and wandered into a gift shop with an entire wall of “fantasy and animal t-shirts.” Embracing the irony and kitsch value of it, my friend and I decided to buy wolf t-shirts. Yes. I'm now one of them. I can't wait to pose in front of Hearst Castle with it on.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

To my delight, Viz recently released the live action NANA movie, and it's a blast to watch. The story's been pared down a bit, but the emotions are there, and the cast does a great job delivering them. I'm endlessly in love with these adaptations, and this one ranks pretty high up on my list.

I'm always blown away by how well these anime-to-live-action films are casted. Every time, I think to myself, “So that's what they'd look like!,” and it's always fun to watch them interact with each other. As each new character in NANA was introduced, I couldn't help but appreciate how much it looked like each person had just pulled a Cool World and jumped into the real world. Of course, it also helped that Mika Nakashima, who plays rocker NANA, is totally badass. She and girly NANA completely own the movie and even if you've never laid eyes on the manga, their performance is something that you could truly enjoy.

For those not yet inducted into the NANA fold, the story tells of a chance meeting between two girls, both the same age, and both named NANA. One of them is independent and self-sufficient, while the other is, as the author puts it, a lot like a puppy. They end up being roommates, and from there, they help each other through difficult moments in their lives. From heartbreak to longing to the wish for fame, the two girls are with each other every step of the way, and it's a touching story.

The movie plows through certain events rather quickly, and completely glazes over some scenes that would have made the character development richer, but for the most part, it's a cute movie. The soundtrack's decent, too, and I can safely say that I've had the title song, “Glamorous Sky,” stuck in my head for most of this week.

Although the movie might have fared better as a miniseries, it still gives a good taste of what the original manga is like. If anything, it'll inspire fans to pick up the series—and keep their eyes peeled for the second movie. I'll go ahead and play the fan card and say that the manga is better, but honestly, this movie's a treat.[TOP]

Next up were volumes two and three of Zegapain. Although I had shaky opinions about the quality of the first volume, with its rushed pacing and its slightly clichéd premise (because let's face it, what teenage boy nowadays doesn't know how to operate a mecha the second he climbs in?), the second and third volumes really made me rethink my opinion. Although it's still a bit rushed, and the characters aren't as well developed as they could be, the story has taken a few twists that have me flat-out intrigued.

For those who haven't seen it yet, in the first volume, one of the missions that the pilots go on is to try to defend the “Shanghai Server.” Although it was a little vague at the time, it's eventually revealed in the second volume that the world is not quite as it seems, and that it may not be as real as it may seem. In a twist that could be compared to the Matrix, the main character learns that everything he once thought was real may be little more than just data stored on computer. Over the next several episodes, this concept is fleshed out a bit more, and is even revealed to the protagonist's best friend—the one person he's sworn himself to protect. Only this time, she may end up being awakened to join their crew.

The whole concept of alternate realities and fictional realities has been explored a lot in various science fiction mediums, but it's still stimulating every time. Perhaps I'll eventually get sick of the whole, “It's only real because you think it's real” shtick, but right now, I still love it, and all of its incarnations. Zegapain doesn't execute it as flawlessly as it probably good, because it doesn't allow viewers to really empathize with the characters, but it's still interesting to watch. It's a vast improvement from the first volume, and I'm excited to see how the last half of the series will pan out.[TOP]

Going to something a bit more basic, now—beating people up. Namely, the second half of Baki the Grappler. For whatever reason, the second box set doesn't have a summary sheet inside the shrinkwrapped package. I guess this isn't incredibly necessary for something that's the second half of a series, but it would be pretty convenient for consumers to know what they're getting into before they decide to plunk down the money.

In any case, I'll go ahead and spoil those who don't know. Baki hits people. He also grunts a bit, thinks about his dedication to fighting, grunts some more, and then continues hitting people. To be fair, there's much more to the series than that, but that's a good 80% of it. Half of the appeal of the show is just watching the different fighting styles, so for martial arts enthusiasts, this show may be right up your alley. In the second season, Baki goes back to the Surpreme Fighting Circuit, and continues to bring his game against various opponents. Sometimes they use conventional fighting styles, and sometimes they fly, but hey, it's still kind of fun to watch if you're having a testosterone fit.

It's worth mentioning that this show mostly appeals to guys, and people who like fighting. It doesn't exactly have the kind of character development and intimate relationships that tend to lure in girls, and there's not too much in the way of a solid, moving storyline. But, if it's rock-and-rock filled fighting that totally rocks your rocket, you would totally dig this. It's just… well, it's a lot of fighting. A lot of fighting. Like, every episode. So punch on, friends, and give this a rental if you want to put some hairs on your chest![TOP]

Last up is Black Cat, another series that Funimation recently released as a boxset. To recap, the story follows a bounty hunter named Train Heartnet. Extremely skilled with firearms, he actually used to be part of a group of deadly assassins who worked for the government. Now he lives mission to mission, accompanied by partners whose pasts are just as shady as his. Things hit the fan when a friend from the past pops into his life again, hoping to lure Train with his proposal to revolutionize the world. It's kind of a quick and dirty synopsis, but if I say anything more, I may end up spilling out the entire series.

As cartoony as the show looks at times, it's actually fairly violent. The deaths are fairly detailed, and they don't skip on the blood. It does take a while to get into the show, though. While the main storyline is pretty involving, there are a good amount of filler episodes that bored me quite a bit. I also couldn't really comfortably settle into the tone of the series. It's supposed to be quite serious, and deals with a lot of serious subjects like civil unrest and moral conscience, but every time things got too dark, there'd be comic relief. The timing threw me off on several occasions, but for the most part, I was able to get over it.

Overall, it's a fun show. It's not the best bounty hunter-type/assassin show out there, but the characters are quirky, and it's a good way to kill some time on a weekend. I don't know that I'd ever watch it over and over again, but it's worth a Netflix rental if you've run out of stuff to watch.[TOP]

Anyway, that's it for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves come from Brian Tobin, from NH. He has a lot of manga, and he claims that's how he keeps himself occupied in the cold winters.

My jealousy is never-ending!!

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


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