Shelf Life
The Jungle

by Bamboo Dong, Sep 22nd 2008

Just a quick heads up—Shelf Life will be on hiatus next week, as a giant chunk of the ANN staff heads to New York City for the New York Anime Festival. It'll be a pleasant departure from the monotonous California sun, and I hope there'll be some inclement weather.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

First up on my list was the second half of the first season of the delightfully irreverent Shinchan. I never manage to catch the episodes when they air on TV, so it's always fun to marathon through the discs when I get them. Yes, it does get a little old at times, especially when my first instinct would be to kick Shin in the face, but I'm quite fond of the other characters. Shin's parents especially crack me up, with their droll senses of humor, quietly drawn from years of anguish.

It's not really possible to summarize the episodes plots in any succinct way, but the episode titles include gems like, “More of a 'Snug' than a 'Magnum',” “The Herpes Effect,” and “OK, But I'm a Power Bottom.” Needless to say, if you're finding yourself already offended, then this show is not for you. Likewise, if your idea of humor doesn't involve gratuitous amounts of ass shots, endless chatter about male anatomy, and little kids cursing at a camera—well, you probably won't like Shin. In fact, this show (the English dub of it, anyway) is about as low brow as you can go, without descending to looped videos of a guy getting hit in the nuts with a football—though I'm sure somewhere in the series, that happens.

Chances are, though, even if you hate some of the characters (ask me how much I hate Shin!), you'll probably like some of the other ones enough to be able to enjoy the show. In my case, the various parental figures are the only things that can really get me through the show, but I love it every time one of them shows up. Whether it's the browbeaten father who's painfully aware that life didn't turn out the way he expected, or the mother whose life dream is to save up for breast implants, or one of the other moms whose life mantra is to simply grin and bear it, there's something painfully humorous behind their mundane lives. Seriously, I could watch those parents forever, kids be damned.

But to recap, there's a good chance you'll like this show if you dig toilet humor, obnoxious children who really aren't receiving the proper parenting, and butts. There are a lot of butts in this show. Ideally, this is something that would be on in the background while college kids are hanging out in someone's messy apartment, after a night of binge drinking and Del Taco. Just don't expect any sophisticated entertainment.[TOP]

Next up in my list was an OVA called Strait Jacket, released by Manga Entertainment. It's a tale set in an unidentifiable time period where life has been made remarkably easier through the usage of sorcery. It's allowed people to create all sorts of new and exciting technologies, and even improve healthcare. Sorcerers, or sorcerists, as they're called in the movie, can do anything from performing surgeries to fighting wars. However, like all good things, there is always a huge downside. The overuse of sorcery can transform people into demons, who go on killing rampages that can only be put down by other sorcerists. To fix that, people created special exoskeleton-type suits called “molds” to help contain the power. However, when those molds fail, the people inside become monsters.

So, move forward to the beginning of the story, where a doctor has turned into a demon and is rampaging through the hospital. The special sorcery defense department doesn't have enough sorcerists to send out, so the woman on duty ends up hiring an unlicensed sorcerist off the street. He's your typical brash hero, who gets the job done, but with always a little too much collateral damage. He doesn't play by the rules, and he lives merely to atone for his past sins. In the end, there ends up being conflicts between him and one of the licensed sorcerists, a big showdown where they spot some philosophical stuff about life and humanity, and it all comes spiraling to an end.

It's an interesting concept, but nothing is really resolved in the end. Of the two people pitted together, one of them lives and the other dies, but that's about it. Afterwards, it's business as usual, and nobody really walks away any wiser. Heck, even the end confrontation probably could've been solved through a proper discussion, since it seems like it was a misunderstanding that fueled their fight anyway. So ultimately, the story is a bit rushed.

Luckily, there's fun stuff to stare at along the way. The graphics are pretty, and the animation is unique in the spots that go out of their way to be edgy and artistic. I'll even have to nerd out for a brief moment and give them props for using a song from one of my favorite French bands, Kyo. Even those elements aren't enough to pad the fact that the three episodes probably didn't hit their full potential. Created by the man responsible for Scrapped Princess, I really think Strait Jacket would've benefitted from being at least 13 episodes long. Considering the main conflict mainly resides within the main character himself, three episodes just aren't long enough to fully develop his personality and make the final confrontation matter. It's an interesting story, I suppose, and probably worth a rental, but for me, it just didn't really get the job done.[TOP]

My next stopover was a boxset from Funimation. I've heard that One Piece is one of those shows that "gets better" as it goes along. I haven't really encountered this yet, but I've only just gotten past the second half of season one, which includes episodes 14-26. So, the ending of the first arc, and the first chunk of the Baratie arc. Rumor has it the next arc is the "best thing ever!" so perhaps I'll just hold my breath for that one.

In this range of episodes, it seems to still be focused largely on introducing new characters. There are several fights sprinkled here and there, but for the most part, these episodes serve to bring Sanji into the story, and also the gang's new boat, the Going Merry. It seems like things were heating up near the end, though, so maybe by the end of the next boxset, I'll finally see what all the One Piece fuss is about.

It's not that I'm not enjoying One Piece. I just haven't really figured out what all the hype is about yet. The cartoonishness of the characters still really turns me off, and I really can't take any of the fights seriously. Luffy could probably get his head chopped off, and it would have no impact on me, because I'd be staring at his weird bug eyes and his lanky arms. Maybe I'm just bitter because it seems like every other anime fan loves this show, and I hate feeling left out. I will say that this storyline between Gin and Sanji seems like it's going in a positive direction, so I will keep my suspense running until the next boxset.

Regardless, if you're a One Piece fan, then rejoice at the thought of more uncut, unedited, bilingual One Piece episodes. Remembering all the hubbub surrounding the first One Piece releases makes holding these discs seem that much more precious, and I'm sure there are plenty of fans out there who are pretty psyched about these releases. As someone who isn't yet part of the One Piece fan fold, I can't join in the excitement yet, but I would recommend this as a rental for anyone looking for some fast-paced Shonen Jump adventures.[TOP]

To finish out my week, I made the mistake of watching the first two sets of Beast King GoLion, released by Media Blasters. Now, a bit about my (lack of) fandom. When the first Voltron series first aired, I hadn't even been born yet. I don't think I was around for Voltron until the 90s CGI one came about, but even then, I didn't really get into it. I watched a few episodes here and there, but I was never one to religiously watch a show every week, so I missed the whole fad.

That first Voltron series was based on Beast King GoLion, this super cheesy Japanese super robot show, which now graces retail shelves everywhere, and that's where we are today. If you're too cheap to buy them, you probably just have to wait a couple months before they hit the bargain bins. The series takes place vaguely in the future, where these men were captured by some evil empire. Eventually they escape, and they end up going to a neighboring planet, which has long since been ravaged by the consequences of war. The princess of that planet sees these guys, thinks they're saviors, and decides that they'll pilot the Golion. Each guy pilots one lion, and when they combine into the Golion, they become the beefiest of all beefy robots. It's so powerful that not even the bad guys can do anything to stop them.

They do try, though. We know this because every single episode, the bad guys send some kind of enemy to go fight our valiant heroes, and after a lot of posturing and strange logical leaps, the good guys always win.

This show is both amazing and bad for some very obvious reasons. Let's start with the bad. Beast King GoLion is super, super ridiculous. The main characters are such archetypes that they even have nicknames to tell the audience what traits they represent: Chief, Moody, Shorty, Hothead, and Quiet. I'm going to go ahead and spoil the show by saying that their personalities are exactly like their nicknames. They also have the silliest outfits ever. It's like a sentai show, except they all climb into robot lions.

Those are the same reasons why this show is amazing. I fully realize that there is an entire generation of fans who would enjoy this show because of nostalgia, and sheer love for the genre. There's also my generation, who largely watches this stuff out of irony. Either way, it's shows like this that make you really appreciate how far anime has come. And truly, there's something magical about seeing big lion heads barking at monsters.

By today's standards, Beast King GoLion is a terrible show. The storyline is really contrived (hello strange men, come pilot our god warriors!), and it's little more than a monster-of-the-week show, but it's really fun in that super campy way. So take from that what you will, and if you decide that you need yourself some robot action this week, check this out.[TOP]

That's it for this week! If anyone's going to be at NYAF, look for us!

This week's shelf is from Andrew. In his own words:

Submitted for your approval are: 509 DVDs (with exactly three bootlegs, to my great shame); 102 figures great and small; 24 import art books; a handful of import mags; and two pieces of original production art. Not pictured are 120 manga volumes, a few scholarly books, and one very, VERY understanding wife. I've been a fan since 2002, when a college friend talked me into picking up a couple of issues of the old Oh My Goddess! monthly comic book series. From there, I discovered the AMG! movie, and it's been a wonderful obsession since then.

It sounds utterly ridiculous to be proud of a bunch of things that I simply paid for and plopped on a shelf, but anime is the one thing I know more about and care more about than any other person I know personally, and this is a manifestation of my devotion to an art form that's given me a happiness and freedom that was missing in my life beforehand. I grew up a fan of American cartoons and superhero comic books, but drifted away from them because they generally seemed so hollowly aggressive, plotless, and single-minded. Being introduced to the AMG! universe, and eventually to anime as a whole, has showed me that visual storytelling could be playful and romantic and inclusive and delightfully different, and has let me come to understand my own personality in ways that spandexed superheroes simply cannot.


Quite amazing, if you ask me.

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


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