Shelf Life
Average Joe

by Bamboo Dong, Sep 8th 2008

Shelf Worthy
Kanon DVD 5
Rental Shelf
xxxHolic DVD 5
Perishable
Joe vs. Joe DVD 1
Miscellaneous
Nana 2 (live-action) DVD
The biggest downside about living in California is that it's hot all year round. Therefore, if one doesn't have air conditioning, then it's something that is noticeable all year round. I'm lucky enough to live by the coast, but it'd sure be nice to be able to chill my place down to 65 every day. Yeah, there are plenty of people who live in much hotter places, and there are even people who, for some terrifying reason, even like the warm weather, but for me, it's too much.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

After watching the first live-action NANA movie several months ago, I was looking forward to the second one. Mika Nakashima makes a perfect NANA, and even though she has moments where you wonder if she's actually dozing on camera, she's got the beauty and the bad-ass nature to play the part. So, knowing that I'd be able to see more of her and her awesome character, I was pretty excited to pop in this movie. She didn't disappoint. Her band-mates didn't disappoint, either, and watching them create their music put a big grin on my face.

Now, the way the other NANA is scripted is what kind of ruins the movie. Readers of the manga already know of Hachi's somewhat delicate nature. To put it bluntly, she's completely useless, except to deliver inspiration to the Black Stones, and to bring out the warmth in the other NANA. Hachi can't hold a job, she can't really take care of herself, and she seems entirely dependent on men. She craves the attention she gets from boyfriends, and falls in love at the drop of a feather. This leads to problems, when she becomes mildly involved with Takumi, a member of Trapnest. At the beginning of the second movie, viewers learn that Hachi is pregnant, and engaged to be married. Then, after going back in time three months, we see how it all comes about.

Hachi's always been kind of a weakling, in the sense that you really want to slap her and tell her to grow up, but she's strong in her own weird way. This is something you realize reading the manga. In the movie, not so much. In the movie, she's just some idiot girl who sleeps with any man who will say nice things to her, and it really makes it hard to sympathize with her. Obviously, she's a bit more three-dimensional than that, but you'd hardly be able to tell it from the way she's haphazardly written off in the movie, which mainly focuses on NANA and her internal struggles.

While I really enjoyed the first live-action movie, it was much harder to get into this one. Outside of my interest for the new songs the Black Stones and Trapnest would be performing, I found it hard to really care about anyone outside of the band members. Hachi just didn't cut it for me, but since she's one of the biggest characters, it's a big disappointment. Even if you're a huge NANA fan, it may not entirely be worth watching this movie—it's best just to stick with the first one, and pretend that this one doesn't exist.[TOP]

Before I started watching the next disc in my queue, I ended up buying a pair of sparring gloves so I could duke it out with one of my friends. I got punched square in the face a couple of times, but overall, it was a good workout, and it put me in the right mood for the turd I was about to watch.

Joe vs. Joe is a series that's exactly how the title sounds. It's about a guy named Joe… versus another guy named Joe. Clever, I know. The series revolves around boxing, so much so that everyone's lives and tragic backgrounds somehow involve the sport. For instance, one of the Joes is a great up-and-coming boxer, but he's got inhibitions about punching people—because of some sordid childhood trauma that vaguely involves him beating up another kid. The main female lead has daddy issues because he loved his boxing career more than his dying wife. The other Joe… well, all we know is that he has an ill mother, but I bet it has something to do with boxing, too. Outside of those backdrops, I'm not even really sure what the purpose of the show is, other than to get the two Joes together so they can punch each other, and probably share a few tears and flashbacks along the way.

The biggest problem, by far, is the completely hokey script. I'm not sure which college filmmaking dropouts they recruited to draft up this gem, but amongst my favorite lines is, “He's got a pretty face… but a killer instinct.” There was also a great dialogue exchange between a couple sitting under a Christmas tree, whereupon seeing the guy's hand inching closer to her body, the girl asks, “Where are you going?” and he answers, “It's a surprise.” I wanted to yell a few helpful guesses to the girl, but I don't think she would've heard me.

Terrible storyline and bad dialogue aside, here's the penultimate kicker—the company who released this title (a new company called Animewho) didn't apparently care enough to proofread their subtitles. There are a handful of grammatical errors everywhere, and it's embarrassing to watch. They couldn't have hired some intern to read through the script before they stuck it onto the DVD? It strikes me as odd, because they clearly went through the effort of also including Spanish subtitles, and the option of having white or yellow subs. I didn't get the chance to check out the English language track, since every time I tried to play it, it crashed my DVD program. However, I'm sure it was the dub of the year, so should I die tomorrow, I won't have any regrets.

I'm sure there are some boxing fiends out there who are thinking, “Gee Bamboo, don't be so harsh! Joe vs. Joe is like a delicate ballet of battling souls, who truly understand the pain and enlightenment that can only be achieved through boxing,” but while that may be true, it didn't entertain me in the least. I did derive some laughs out of it, but they were mostly out of irony, and not out of any real mirth. If it's boxing you want to see, I'd recommend something actually good, like Fighting Spirit. Cheers, Animewho, for joining in the distribution fray, but I'm afraid we don't see eye to eye on this title.[TOP]

Luckily, I didn't have to wallow in Joe vs. Joe too long, and was able to rinse out my mind with the next series. While the last volume of Kanon won't be out until October, I thought it'd be a good time to finally catch up on the fifth volume. By the time the finale rolls around, I'll already know which girls have either died, disappeared, or become woodland creatures.

Deep down, I know that Kanon is ridiculous. The story jumps around whenever it feels like it, and tends to focus on one girl's scenario at a time. This ends up working out really well for me, because I like having little modules that I can watch without having to invest too much energy into a show. However, the series hasn't really been good about joining those said modules. For instance, in this disc, the first bit focuses on Shiori, the sickly girl that Yuichi has been spending time with. That culminates in a spurt of happiness, but whether or not that storyline ever gets resolved is never explained. Rather, it just jumps straight to Ayu's story, which happens a bit abruptly. Although she and Yuichi didn't really have that much interaction previously, beyond him just being a nice guy, suddenly they're super close (super moe alert!) and we discover her personal demons.

Even though Kanon is a little over the top, I still really enjoy it. The girls are super sweet, and the things that they find cute are incredibly charming. I, too, love the idea of a store full of weird stuffed animals, and I think it's perfectly acceptable to like a marble because it's the color of strawberries. These girls are so endearing that it's hard to dislike any of them, even a little bit. They may all be sickly or crazy, but they're all very good-natured and kind, and their joie de vivre makes them exciting to watch. This show certainly isn't for everyone, but as far as these types of sad-girls-in-the-snow shows go, Kanon has been pretty addictive so far.[TOP]

Last up was a title that I've continuously grown more and more attached to as each volume goes by—that being XXXHOLiC. I didn't even think that I'd keep liking this series after the first few discs, but it's really grown on me. The four episodes on this disc, in particular, really tickled me in a positive way.

The episodes in XXXHOLiC seem to be divided into two main types—fables, and supernatural stories. Both are interesting, but in their own way. For instance, the first episode in this volume is more of a fable. Titled “Self Mutilation,” it tells the story of a woman who inadvertently sabotages her life to avoid happiness, stress, or uncertain scenarios. For instance, she'll step out into moving traffic, just to avoid giving a presentation at work that would've led to a promotion. In the end, Yuko doesn't help her with magic—rather, the awareness to keep her life moving forward. The second episode on the disc is more in line with the supernatural. Doumeki and Watanuki are able to experience a spirit procession, but are discovered to be humans when one of them takes a misstep.

The two kinds of episodes deliver a different kind of message, generally. The fable episodes are almost like cautionary tales, or even self-help guides, telling people how to live life happier, or to stop whatever vices they may have. Occasionally, they'll have a slight supernatural bent, but for the most part, they're real-life problems involving real-life people. On the other hand, the more supernatural tales are almost more fun. It gives viewers the chance to experience different mythologies, and see fantastical new creatures that the designers have whipped up. The latter is more like sitting around a campfire—the former, perhaps more like sitting around a support group. Both are interesting, but in their own ways.

XXXHOLiC certainly appeals in many ways. It took me a while before I could fully reconcile how I felt about this show, but in the end, I think it's very much worth watching. There are times every now and then when I find myself dozing off, but for the most part, it's been a good experience. Terrible animation aside, this is something that people ought to check out.[TOP]

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are delightfully organized by Darren, who went on a cleaning spree when his family decided to visit. The collection resides in Victorville, CA, which he claims is in "the middle of the desert." He's pretty right about that one, so I've got no right to complain about the heat in Orange County.

Those are some pretty shelves. Good job.

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


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