Shelf Life
Angels in the Outerspace

by Bamboo Dong, Sep 1st 2008

My entire last week in lab was tragically unproductive. With the live HD feed of the DNC streaming online every afternoon, it took every ounce of strength in my body to drag myself from my desk to the bench to go purify some DNA or run some gel. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that the fate of the world's cure-seeking efforts partially rests on grad students like me.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Having missed the live-action Death Note movie when it was in theaters, I was pretty excited about the prospect of finally watching it on DVD. After seeing all those promo pictures of L, I thought there was no way it would be anything less than cool.

Well, L was certainly cool. The rest of the movie… I guess it was okay—if you're a Death Note fan. Even then, it's a bit of a let-down. Because it takes several episodes from the first season and crams them into a two hour long movie, a lot of the subtleties are lost. What made the first part of Death Note work so well was all the moral questions that Light's actions brought up—whether or not it was okay to kill criminals, whether one man had the right to play God, and at what point does the killer become just as bad as a murderer on death row? With the movie, though, everything is blasted through so fast that viewers don't really get the time to sit down and contemplate those issues. Instead, Light's transition from “judge” to “murderer” is just used as a plot device to get him to start battling wits against L.

On the upside, it is somewhat nice to see real-life counterparts to all the characters. The acting is weak, though, so watching some old-looking Light go around scribbling in his book wasn't that satisfying, so that joy is cut short. The CGI is really awkward, too, making every appearance of Ryuk more laughable than anything else. The only saving grace is L, whose character is so inherently quirky that when you see someone acting out his mannerisms, it's immediately delightful. Played by Ken'ichi Matsuyama, the character definitely makes the movie, and is almost the reason I'd recommend this film to fans of the series.

For everyone else—well, it's a pale imitation of both the manga and anime series, but I didn't have a bad time while watching it. It's a movie that someone who hasn't seen or read the series could enjoy, but that one who has would realize it's a let-down. A lot of what makes Light such a complex character was lost through the remake, and considering that was one of the best things about the show, it's a bummer. But like I said, L is pretty awesome, so maybe that's reason enough to check it out.[TOP]

Of course, if you're in the mood for something far less… structured, luckily, anime always has a cure for that. Bandai recently released a slew of “complete collection” sets, amongst them Galaxy Angel X, the sequel to Galaxy Angel A. They also released Galaxy Angel AA, which is the second half of Galaxy Angel A, and encompasses episodes 27-52. For those unfamiliar with the Galaxy Angel franchise, I'll try to give as quick of a recap as I can.

Galaxy Angel is a quintuple scoop of cuteness in a cone, drizzled with energy, and topped with a big dollop of randomness. The Angel Brigade is made up of several girls (originally five, though they add another girl in X) with very different personalities—the cute and perky, the naïve and innocent, the techno-freak, the man-hater, and so on. They take on various missions that lead them on ridiculously adventures, like being trapped in a cyclical hell that involves sorting garbage and leading boring laymen lives, turning into spiders, battling weird creatures, chasing animals, and just about every scenario you could think of. Seriously, this show is as random as it gets. One of the chunklets on the first disc of Galaxy Angel X revolves entirely around tubular fish cakes—and that's one of the more tame episodes. Chances are, though, that if you're a fan of Galaxy Angel, you probably like the characters so much that this is just more icing atop of a very delicious cake.

Even for those unfamiliar with the franchise, there's a certain charm to the manic nature of this show. You don't really have to pay close attention, and you don't have to worry about cliffhangers. You can just pop in an episode whenever you have a spare 25 minutes, and derive plenty of chuckles from it. It's a show that doesn't rely so much on written jokes or even slapstick, but just sheer energy. There isn't really a cohesive storyline, but once you get into it, it doesn't really matter. It's the kind of show that could force you to blink and ask, “What just happened?,” and most likely, you'll probably want to keep going.

As far as the price, both of these collections are a really good deal, and huge space savers. There are 26 episodes in each collection, packed into 3 discs that fit into a standard-sized case. With a $49.98 MSRP, with a lot of places online selling them as low as $33, you're barely paying over a dollar per episode. For fans of the Galaxy Angel girls, this is a huge deal you won't want to pass up. For everyone else, it might be the start of a new favorite, but I'd recommend renting it first. The show is fun and it's definitely cute, but its lack of focus and story arcs means it's not for everyone.[TOP]

I can, however, recommend the next item on my list—the second volume of Gurren Lagann, which includes episodes 10 through 18. Seriously, this show just keeps getting better and better. When I first started watching this series, I appreciated it for its energy and gung-ho spirit. I dug all the optimism and all the fighting-for-a-cause mentality, and overall, I just thought it was a really fun show. By the time I finished this volume, I had completely changed my opinion about the show—for the better.

It may start out with just a humans vs. Beastmen storyline, with the rather simplistic goal of abolishing the enemy, but once they do so, the series takes a completely different spin. Instead of being the underdogs, the humans suddenly become the champions, but it comes at a great cost. There's something sinister that the humans weren't prepared to deal with, and it has to do with their power influx, their overpopulation, and their desire to play god. Almost everything they knew goes flying out the window, and now they're facing something they're completely unprepared for. Even the viewers get thrown for a huge loop, and it's a shocking, but nice, change of pace.

Gurren Lagann has been a really exciting journey so far. There's never been a single dull moment, and every time the series starts mellowing out, it throws a curve ball. From unexpected tragedies to plain old Plot Twists, it keeps itself from becoming predictable. Just as the Beastman of the Week routine started getting mildly dull, it resolved itself and veered in a completely different direction. Not only did it jump seven years into the future, but the second story arc is almost completely unrecognizable from the first. I really don't see how it's possible to become bored with this show. A fair warning though—the sixteenth episode is a recap, so unless you've somehow forgotten whatever it is you just saw, it's worth your time to skip past it.

So far, this series hasn't let me down at all. The characters have been really dynamic and fun to watch, and their complete shift from the first story arc to the second make them all the more exciting to watch. If you're looking for something new to fill your mind, Gurren Lagann is the way to go. It's wacky, it's intense, and it's got all the unpredictability that made me first fall in love with Gainax shows.[TOP]

Now, one of the things that has me super pumped about the next couple of months is all the re-releases and continuing releases of all the old Geneon stuff. Last week, I got to catch up with Geneon's bullet-pumping action adventure, Black Lagoon. Naturally, when I came across the first volume of Black Lagoon: Second Barrage, I was pretty thrilled. I think it's toned down a bit from the first season, but it's still a good way to pass some time.

The first three episodes on the disc follow a small storyline where two kids are going around killing people. They call themselves vampires, but really, they're just creepy Romanian kids with troubled pasts who dress up in EGL outfits. Now, just going around killing people isn't that big of a deal in the Black Lagoon realm of things, but once they start messing with the mafia, the natural order of the world starts crumbling. So, in comes our heroes, and matters are settled. Then another story starts, involving counterfeit money.

My only beef with this disc is that it doesn't spend enough time on the main characters. I think it's important to shed light on the situation at hand, and give some screen time to the bad guys, but we barely get to see Revy, Rock, and the others at all. They pop in for a few minutes near the end, but they don't factor into it that much. Now, this may not bother other viewers, but since my personal reason for liking this show so much is my enjoyment of the main characters, their lack of screen time bums me out a little.

Aside from that, it's still a very well put-together show. It's still got all the oomph that I like Black Lagoon for, and it creates some creepy villains. I've always been spooked by sinister kids in anime (at least this one didn't involve glowing butterflies), and these three episodes just cement my fervent fear of them. When they revealed for the first time just how interchangeable the two kids are, in their switching of gender roles, my jaw was agape and I wanted nothing to do with orphanages for quite some time.

In the end, Black Lagoon: Second Barrage will just as easily delight new fans as it will please old fans. The characters aren't as prominently featured as I would've liked, but I'm sure that may just be a personal preference. The action is still intense, and the pacing is still delightfully fast, so it's pretty hard not to have a great time.[TOP]

That's the scoop for this week; tune in next time for more!

This week's "sexy alphabetized shelves" (his words, not mine!) are from Gregory of Hamilton, NJ. He was first introduced to anime by Gundam Wing, and later became addicted by his favorite shows, Cowboy Bebop and Nadesico. He currently has $7,000 in anime DVDs, $2,000 in manga, and has never since looked back. Just for fun, he also included a shot of his non-anime shelves, valued at over $3,000.

Wow! Your anime shelves could put a kid through college. I'm both impressed and jealous.

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


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