Shelf Life
Ghost Hunters

by Bamboo Dong, Oct 13th 2008

I've discovered something frightening. Apparently Wikipedia has a disturbingly large amount of genitalia photos. This ranges from pictures on pages for genital parts, to various procedures (like waxes and piercings), to sexual acts. Why it's necessary for people to edit these pages to include pictures of themselves copulating is completely beyond me, and I'm actually a little grossed out by it. It's one thing to have an education photo of a penis. It's another to show me what gokkun entails. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Every now and then, companies like to dupe anime fans by pawning off some anime-wannabes, in the hopes that we either won't notice or won't care. Then, when some kind-hearted fan is schlepping through the aisle of Best Buy, he sees a title that promises blood, guts, and possibly glory. It's not until too late that he realizes that he's been taken, and he's now got a disc full of Korean crap on his hands.

The latest title to tap the anime-fans-would-probably-buy-this-junk market is Dead Space: Downfall, a feature-length prequel to EA's video game, Dead Space. On the cover is man's decimated limb floating around in space. Within the first few minutes, we get the full scoop as to why. A space mining mission uncovers a fantastic find when they discover a holy relic, a towering sculpted rock with glowing emblems on it. They strap the thing onto their space ship/colony and lug it back home so all the religious fanatics have something else to pray to. Within minutes, hell breaks loose when everyone starts dying. The source is, of course, alien life forms, which kill humans, then use their bodies to birth more aliens.

Having not really kept up to date with this video game, I imagine the game is also about killing these aliens and vanquishing the undead. That just makes sense. What doesn't quite make sense is why they didn't just insert this storyline into the video game, and spare people the chance of accidentally buying it and wasting 74 minutes of their precious lives. As a videogame plot, this movie would've been pretty sweet. Plus it brings up all sorts of tantalizing questions about organized religion that would please all those deep thinkers out there.

As a faux-anime movie, it stinks. The animation is clunky and comes off looking like an old 90s cartoon, like Dragon Flyz. Natural human movement is a bit of a luxury in this film, so maybe it's a blessing that 80% of it is just energy chainsaws and monsters. To try to make things seem more “futuristic,” they decided to render the outside of the ship in full CGI. Instead of looking cool, though, it just ends up looking garish, and it clashes awkwardly with the 2D animation.

To make up for it, the characters just curse a lot and flip each other off. It's supposed to take your mind off the animation, I think. On the upside, I wouldn't mind playing the video game, because it seems as mind-numbingly entertaining as the Aliens arcade games. Still, don't make the same mistake as I did by watching this piece of trash. Just go shoot things like they want you to, and pretend this thing doesn't exist.[TOP]

Having not experienced enough violence for one day, I popped in the second and last volume of Joe vs. Joe, an OVA about two boxers named Joe. When I reviewed the first disc, I slammed it for being trite and clichéd, but as I neared the end of the 6-episode series, it actually started to grow on me a bit. Then it abruptly ended, leaving questions unanswered and me feeling a little swindled.

So there are two Joes—A-hole Joe, who has traumatizing childhood memories (which are never revealed, sadly) that have turned him into an angry, vengeful fighter; and Hero Joe, who has a lot of natural talent, but used to be afraid of hitting people. They both train in their respective gyms, and eventually meet in their final showdown. A-hole Joe's strengths are his deadly punches and the fact that the only reason he's boxing is to get back at Hero Joe for showing him up during a sparring match in Shibuya. Hero Joe has great defense and remarkably speed. And, as is the case with all sports shows, he's got The Guts!, the Spirit, and the Love.

By the end, it's actually hard not to get into it. Hero Joe's easy to root for, even though his childhood trauma is never explained either, while A-hole Joe is a made-to-order antagonist who has nothing on his mind except revenge. Throw in some punches and some silly visual effects where they whoosh around each other, and you've got a fun little show. The one caveat? It would've been a good show if it had been longer. As it is, it has the most anticlimactic ending ever, and presumably, the bad guy has learned nothing. The viewers don't even find out what their childhood traumas are, which makes me kind of used.

Despite it all, Joe vs. Joe ended up not being as bad as I thought it would be. It's like the classic, “It gets better!,” only by the time it does, it takes a nosedive again. Maybe I'll just forget the last five minutes existed, and just pretend that my DVD melted. Then all is forgiven. In the meantime, you can watch some dudes punch each other. In terms of animation, you're really not going to get a genuine boxing experience from the way the characters jerkily flit around, but reality probably wasn't a high priority on the animators' lists. Just enjoy some punching and try not to think about the story too hard.[TOP]

With Halloween slowly creeping upon us, I decided to devote the rest of my week to the more supernatural and creepy. First up was the last volume of XXXHOLiC. Really, most of the journey has been pretty fun. Some of the fables were rewarding and even a little eye-opening, while others were entertaining in a campfire sort of way. But this isn't to say that all is roses and cherries.

Although the viewers have “learned” various lessons throughout the series, like being humble enough to ask for help, or not letting white lies build up on your conscience, it seems like Watanuki really hasn't learned much. At the end of the episode, he seems to have an “Aha!” moment, but in the end, he hasn't changed much. He's still jealous of Doumeki to the point of hating him, he still refuses to acknowledge the talents of those around him, and he still flips out about every little thing around him. Also, his dub voice is so shrill that I refuse to listen to the English audio… although that's not so much a fault of the character as it is an artifact of the all-around-shrill, overacted dub.

So while it's a little disappointing to see that none of the characters have really evolved over the course of the series, at least viewers can get something out of it. I didn't necessarily have any life-changing moments, but I did make some quite observations about my life. Watanuki's loss, really.

The last volume manages to serve up more of the same types of stories as previous ones. In one of the multi-parters, Watanuki falls very ill, but has to learn to trust Doumeki once again to save his life. In another episode, he learns about the downfalls of superstitions. Like their predecessors, these stories are quaint, although it's just as easy to get distracted by the awful artwork as it was before. In the end, though, I'm glad I sat through this series. It doesn't have much replay value for me, but for a one-time rental, it's worth watching.[TOP]

Now before I start the next review, let's lay out some precursory information.

I started watching Ghost Hunt at 2:18AM. My roommate had already gone to bed, and a stack of DVDs in my room had just toppled over. I was probably in no condition to be watching Ghost Hunt. There were some humorous moments scattered throughout the episodes, but by the time 5AM had rolled around, I was jumping at every creak and whoosh. I kept watching until the sun came up.

Would the show have been as scary had I not been in an easily-spookable frame of mind? I don't know, but under the conditions that I did watch the show, the stories completely pulled me in and did a pretty good job of scaring me. Half the stories involve little kids, too, and everyone knows how darned creepy they can be.

Ghost Hunt, despite its somewhat lame title, is actually very engaging. The main character is a likeable girl named Mai who ends up working for a pretty boy spirit hunter who runs a business called Shibuya Psychic Research. Using a variety of high-tech gadgets and monitoring systems, he's able to determine the cause of almost every spiritual infestation. Then with the help of an assorted group of mediums, exorcists, monks, and shrine maidens, they vanquish whatever is haunting a particular place. It sounds a little hokey, but it's executed remarkably well. Each story arc stretches across three or more episodes, to give each scenario ample time to play out. By the time viewers are in the middle of the second episode, it's hard to pull away. In that regard, it's a good thing Funimation decided to release the series in thirteen episode chunks, because I probably would have had nightmares if I wasn't able to watch the resolution of some of these stories.

In terms of technical execution, Ghost Hunt isn't anything remarkable. The music is your standard horror fare, with dissonant violins and tinny chimes. Visually, it's passable. The animation gets the job done, and while none of the ghosts look particularly scary, the writing is strong enough that it doesn't matter.

Horror/suspense anime generally runs the gamut between genuinely spooky (like Paranoia Agent) to downright silly (like Ghost Stories), with varying degrees of gore or mysticism, and Ghost Hunt makes a good addition to the mix. It's a shade better than the series that simply relate ghost tales, because the presence of recurring characters makes it easy to feel more involved in the story. They're also very human and very likeable, which gives the episodes a touch of reality that enhances the atmosphere. With Halloween coming up, this would work well as a marathon show amongst friends. It might not withstand the test of time, but it worth watching right here, right now.[TOP]

Oh, and eager to check it out for yourself? Keep your eyes peeled for ANN's annual pumpkin carving contest. You could very well end up winning your own copy, plus a giant, giant box of other stuff.

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

This week's shelf is from Emily, who resides in Michigan. Here's what she had to say about her collection, and her cute cat.

I've only really been into anime for like three years now, but I have 300-something disks in my collection. Um...pay no attention the random bootleg anime down in the corner. I got those back when I was stupid, but I'm better now. The other pictures have my cat, Howl, who was named for the movie-version of the character from "Howl's Moving Castle." He really *is* Howl, too--flirtatious, cowardly, charming, and absolutely impossible. He'd eat my little Gundam figure if I didn't keep him away from the bookcase.

Cute. ;__;

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