Shelf Life
Tweeny Boppers

by Bamboo Dong, May 12th 2008

I'm always looking for fun little projects to play with, whether it means making a shark plush out of fuzzy blue fabric, or learning how to mold plastic. Recently, I stumbled upon this Youtube link that shows how to turn an average toothbrush into a cute, scuttling robot. I'm so in love. I can't wait to make a small army of these things.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Those looking for something fresh and earnest should consider Media Blasters' release of Tweeny Witches. Produced by the amazingly talented folks at Studio 4c, the series is as visually unique as it is entertaining, with its sharp character designs, rich backgrounds, and its vibrant colors. Combine that with a message of social responsibility and “wildlife” conservation, and you've got a series that's as charming as it is uplifting. Of course, by wildlife, I mean something more apropos to a fantasy series like magical fairies, but it spreads an interesting message nevertheless.

The story centers around a girl named Arusu who's always believed that magic can be accomplished by anyone who believes in it enough. Practicing from a spell book given to her by her father when she was young, she's been teaching herself magic in the hopes that she can eventually use it for good. Much to her surprise, she accidentally tumbles into a magical world where she meets two young witches who are working hard on capturing fairies. After the fairies are accidentally released, though, the two witches are punished with a spell of eternal youth, and are told that they can't grow up until they've recovered all the fairies.

What's the big deal with the fairies, you might ask. Much like some cultures use animal parts for medicinal or gourmet purposes, the witches use fairy parts for their magical abilities. For instance, a gryphon feather is necessary for flying, whereas the fang of another creature is needed to cast a hallucination spell. Arusu finds the practice of capturing them to be deplorable, and tries to convince the witches that if they ask the fairies for those parts nicely, they will be freely given. Of course, her unconventional thinking aside, she's being targeted by other members of the witch society as well. Despite being a human, she has a great affinity for magic; the magic book she received is apparently extremely powerful, too, so when that's lost, all the stops are pulled to try and retrieve it.

While Tweeny Witches excels in being simply entertaining and fun to look at, its social messages give it a slightly deeper layer. Arusu truly believes that magic should only be used for good, which is juxtaposed against the magical society, which seems to be more evil than not. They're technologically advanced enough to provide themselves with top-notch education and lots of perks, but in the process, they destroy much of what's around them. You can take it as an indictment of modern society or not, but it gives viewers something to chew on while they're watching the witches whiz around on their brooms.

The great thing about Tweeny Witches is that you can interpret as much, or as little, of it as you want and still be entertained. You can parallel the characters' sentiments with those of conservationist ideals, or think about modern-day superpowers, or you could just kick back and have fun. It's a magical girl show for all ages, and something that would probably give a different meaning each time you watched it. If you're sick of watching shows that are all flash and no substance, check this one out. It's definitely a charmer.[TOP]

Next up was something that was just as fun—but in a very different way. Funimation has released the first season of Shin-chan, a mile-a-minute show where nothing is sacred. Laced with profanity and controversial topics and plenty of little boy penis and buttocks, it punches viewers in the face with the kind of irreverent humor that people love to hate.

For those who were hoping for a taste of the original series, you'll be sad to know that this release is English-only. Funimation has taken quite a few liberties with the dub, modernizing the series by throwing in jokes that range from Jessica and Ashlee Simpson to cracks about crystal meth. The episode order has also been rearranged from its original lineup, but since there's no overarching storyline, this doesn't matter too much.

Shin-chan is about a crude boy named Shin who's as disrespectful as he is dense. The people in his life include his overstressed mother, his infant sibling, his dopey dad, a handful of kids in his class, and plenty of adults whose lives are quagmires of anxiety and marital unhappiness. Together, they make up the cast of Shin-chan, and go through tasks as mundane as begging for allowance, or shooting paper darts at a scoreboard. Depending on your sense of humor, though, this could be funniest or the worst thing in the world.

The dialogue in Shin-chan is hilarious for anyone who isn't easily offended by crude humor. And really, that's the big thing. The series carries a TV-MA rating, and it's well-earned. If profanity makes you wince, then this won't appeal to you in the slightest. Likewise, if you hate shows seeped in modern pop culture references, you probably won't like this either.

Personally, I think this show is a riot. I can't stand the characters, but the dialogue is fast and unrelenting, and I love the pungency of the toilet humor. I don't know that I'd ever have a reason to watch these episodes ever again, but I definitely laughed all the way through.[TOP]

Tangentially, but related to the next item in my review list, I think I may be sick of vampire shows. There's always a moment in each show when you get the unsettling feeling that you've seen the show before, but then you realize that you're just thinking about something else that had vampires in it. It's not that the different series are terribly familiar, it's just that after a certain point, vampire shows cease to be interesting.

I think I realized this when I popped in the second disc and couldn't remember what happened in the first disc. It wasn't until 10 minutes in that the first few episodes came flooding back to me. Had it been an exciting show, though, surely I would've remembered. Black Blood Brothers isn't uninteresting, per se, it's just very… vampiric. As always, there's a vampire that sides with humans and hunts his own kind, and there's almost always some kind of organization that using vampires for their own gain.

Luckily, if you haven't seen any other shows in this genre, then this is not only new to you, but it's probably pretty exciting, too. The series is decently fast paced, and it has enough twists that things are kept reasonable fresh. If you recall, the main character is a vampire known also as the Silver Sword. He's a nice guy, but because he was so instrumental to past wars, he's got a pretty intense reputation. As a result, the Company doesn't want anything to do with him because he attracts way too much attention. And, true to prediction, he's being targeted left and right by various vampire groups who want to take him down.

The one really great thing about Black Blood Brothers is the main character. Jiro is a surprisingly complex character, not only because of his mottled history, but also because of the sadness and sense of duty that he carries within him. Almost all vampire heroes have some kind of tortured past that they have to endure, but Jiro's occasional cheeriness and his brotherly affection makes him a protagonist worth cheering for. He's simultaneously goofy and badass, which makes him fun to watch. I don't know that I'd ever want to watch this show again, but I'm a little curious how this story will play out.[TOP]

One series that I'm increasingly fascinated with is xxxHOLiC. I know there are plenty of people who are turned off by the show's lanky and hypersexualized character designs, but they're easy enough to get over. Once you do, you can actually enjoy the meat of the series.

Episodic series like this are a lot of fun because you don't have to worry about watching them in order. You can pop in an episode or two whenever you have some spare time, and you can enjoy it without having to remember what happened before that. You also don't have cliff hangers, so you don't have to set aside time in a day to marathon a few episodes. Watching xxxHOLiC is more like sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and swapping tales. Only with the show, the tales are all of a supernatural bent and generally involve spirits of some kind.

With the second volume, the stories continue as Watanuki continues to learn what goes on in the spirit world. Although each story is quaint in its own way, my personal favorites may either be the one about the fox-run oden shop, or the all-too-close tale of a woman who's addicted to the internet. A lot of the episodes could almost serve as cautionary tales, as many of the clients' ills are the results of their own weaknesses or bad habits.

Lots of series have done the whole supernatural one-shot shtick, but it's still interesting every time. If you liked shows like Mushi-Shi or the Rumiko Takahashi Anthology, or plenty of others along that vein, then you should definitely give xxxHOLiC a try. If anything, the sheer amount of fresh stories on each disc should be a big draw. Just get over the string bean characters, and you'll have a good time.[TOP]

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

This week's towering collection is from Alexander, a self-professed nerd who resides in San Luis Obispo, CA. The first picture contains all his comic trades and his manga, while the second is entirely science fiction. The third has what appears to be every Star Trek book in existence.

It's not all anime, but I've got a soft spot for sci-fi too, so I embrace his collection. Plus, that's an attractive collection.

Got some shelves you want to show off? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!


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