Shelf Life
Khan Job

by Bamboo Dong, Nov 3rd 2008

It's November 3rd. Tomorrow is November 4th. For the rest of the world, this date may not have much significance to you, other than the chance to tell your friends at the water cooler, “Boy, those Americans sure did mess up,” but for all you Americans out there, you know what's up. This election is critically important for this country, and I hope you take the time to vote. Yeah, the lines will be long. Yeah, you're just one vote, but it will make all the difference in the world, and that hour (or more) that you spend waiting in that line will be worth it. If you don't vote, you don't get to bitch about what happens next.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

In my ongoing quest to watch every last droplet of Dragon Ball-related anime in the world, which syncs up perfectly with Funimaton's quest to release all the DB ever made, I checked out their latest double feature, which includes Cooler's Revenge and The Return of Cooler. Not to give out spoilers, but even though you think Goku and his buddies defeat Cooler in the first movie—he actually comes back. To seek revenge. Luckily, DBZ aficionados can also watch these epic battles in high definition with the Blu-Ray release, for maximum enjoyment of Goku's heaving chest.

Just to get everyone else up to speed, Cooler is Frieza's brother, whom Goku defeated in some prior adventure. Angry at Saiyans, Cooler is on a mission to not only wipe out his brother's killer, but also to destroy the planet, because that's how these things are done. Fortunately, as is the nature with these movies, everything follows a very convenient formula:

  1. An enemy appears. He may or may not choose to pick on Gohan.
  2. Goku fights back.
  3. The fight lasts for most of the movie, but Goku struggles… a lot.
  4. Invariably, he's helped out by someone like Piccolo, Vegeta, or both.
  5. Success!

This is really helpful, because Cooler is unlike any enemy they've seen before, especially when he returns for revenge. Turns out, his brain has been absorbed into this super machine planet, which allows him to resurrect as an indestructible machine with an army of clones.

Don't worry if you're not intimately familiar with the series and the characters, though. The English language track has added a novella's worth of extra dialogue, just to keep you in the know. It's also helpful for people who have a terrifying fear of silence, like the dub script writers. For whatever reason, there's an overpowering necessity for there to be a constant stream of dialogue. When the characters aren't chattering, there's some pounding rock music playing in the background. This isn't terribly uncharacteristic for Funimation dubs, but these movies have some really extreme examples of their dialogue changing.

For instance, there's a scene in the first movie where Piccolo is fighting one of Cooler's goons. In the Japanese, it's largely a silent fight scene, and the only spot of dialogue is Piccolo grunting, “You rotten…! Sauza…!” In the dub, the following exchange takes place between multiple characters:
“My name is Piccolo. You should never have come to this planet.”
“Sauza, leave him to me.”
“Sauza, what are you waiting for? Go get the kid!”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“You're supposed to be dead!”

People say that silence can oftentimes speak more than words, and apparently it's true in this movie. Who knew that Japanese silence could be translated into such a lengthy conversation?

I shouldn't be too hard on the movies, though. Fans do have the option of watching the Japanese dialogue track, so at least they can get the original story from somewhere. The only other problem I have with these movies is that they're simply not that good, especially the first one. Cooler's Revenge is basically a very long and pointless fight scene, interrupted by a scene where Gohan pulls a magical bean out of his underpants and gives it to his dad to eat. The Return of Cooler is much better, especially with the backstory about New Namek and the machine planet. The fights are cooler, too (hur hur), and it's kind of fun seeing Goku get whooped on by three dozen clones. Those looking for more creative stories may do better with some of the other DBZ movies out there, but if it's fighting you want, then this might be a good selection. Plus if you get bored, you can imagine Justin Chatwin fighting against a giant metallic lizard.[TOP]

At least with something like Dragon Ball Z, you always kind of know what to expect. This can be good for people who fear change, or who just want some kind of safety blanket. If you want something a little more random and weird, you can always try your hand at the pointlessly charming School Rumble. The first 13 episodes of the second season are now available in one of those two-disc thinpak boxes, and I daresay that I already enjoy it more than the first season.

The students at whateverhighschool are back at it again, this time with some more whacky love relationships for viewers to chuckle at. Harima, the class delinquent, has been working hard to finish his manga for a competition. He's been getting assistance from Tenma's sister, but now everyone thinks the two are data, much to the chagrin of both Harima and the girl who's crushing on him. While they're sorting that out, the students need to figure out what to do for the upcoming school festival. Should they put on a play, or open a café? To help decide, they end up in a battle royale, with some surprise attacks from the kids who want to put on a musical performance.

What's fun about this show is that it doesn't confine itself to reality. The characters are just as likely to appear in the classroom as they are in a remote jungle location, or in a warzone. It makes their little situations seem that much more grandiose and imaginative, and it keeps viewers on their toes. I didn't much like this series when I saw the first season, but the characters have really grown on me. The ever-boring Karasuma is the perfect contrast to Tenma's bubbly personality, and Harima's good intentions are almost always instant comedy.

This season also focuses on the characters' relationships a bit more. While the first season grew tiresome with its constant cat-and-mouse chase between Harima and Tenma and Karasuma, and the never-ending “please love me!” scenarios, these episodes abandon that entirely. Instead, they use the school's events as a backdrop to really focus on the different students and their relationships with each other, which is a refreshing change. This improvement will definitely keep me watching.[TOP]

In the past, I've heaped plenty of praise on those 13-episode boxsets, but I really learned to appreciate them today when I popped in the Kyo kara Maoh!, season two volume eight… and couldn't remember what had happened in the previous volume. I don't know what it is about this series, but every time I get a new DVD, it always takes me a couple episodes before I figure out what's going on. Maybe it's the release schedule, I don't know, but this is the reason why boxsets are so clutch.

Last time we checked in with our pretty boy heroes, they were concerned about four boxes, which contained the sealed spirits of ancient enemies called Originators. The key to each box was inherited by descendants of the Great One's friend, which happen to be the current advisors and officers for the demon king. So anyway, the demon king has to go and use his magic to shove the leaking evil back into the boxes, but naturally, things don't resolve that easily. The evilness escapes, and now they're basically screwed. Whoops.

My appreciation for Kyo kara Maoh! waxes and wanes almost every other episode, like a fickle man child on his fifth beer. When the storyline is progressing, it's actually very engrossing. The problem is that it's not always moving forward. Much of the time, viewers are stuck watching scenes of the boys' parents lounging around on a boat, or watching various side characters express concern over the situation. I realize the characters were made to be eye candy, but frankly, if they're not doing or saying anything important, I don't really care. That's why I was kind of sour on this volume, although the (feeble) plot twist near the end has my interest piqued again.

At this point, 70-some episodes have already elapsed. If you haven't started watching this show yet, I don't know that I can really ask you to begin now. For the rest of us, we're well beyond the point of no return. They could end the series with a bunch of clowns dancing around a maypole, and we'd have no choice but to continue watching. Luckily, things are still happening at a relatively fast pace, so let's just hope this thing doesn't fizzle out in the end.[TOP]

To shake things up a bit, I popped in Genghis Khan, a Japanese live-action movie released by Funimation that chronicles the first half of the Mongol leader's life, up until the invasion of the Jin Dynasty. Of all the live-action movies that Funimation has released (I will admit that I tend to prefer Viz's taste in movie acquisitions), this has actually been one of the most enjoyable. I'm not particularly well-educated in the intimate details of this man's life, so I don't know how much of the portrayal of him as a kind but harsh ruler is glorified, but it was an enjoyable biography nevertheless.

The man that almost everyone knows in some capacity as Genghis Khan was born as Temujin, the son of a clan leader. After his father was killed, he was ostracized by his clan because of his mother's outsider heritage. With his determination and leadership skills, though, he eventually expanded his new tribe, fought and won many battles against neighboring tribes, and was able to unify the Mongols, when he became known as Genghis Khan. This movie tells of that story, starting with his birth, all the way up until the unification of the nation. It also spends ample time talking about his personal life and the reforms that he brought to his people, especially in terms of the way that women were treated during wartime.

To give the movie ample credit, it's filmed on a very epic scale. The battle scenes are grandiose and exciting to watch, and it's obvious a lot of effort went into making these battles look realistic. The costumes are very elaborate, and I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that most of the camp and battle scenes were filmed with a buttload of extras and war reenacters, not just computer models. Either way, they look really great, and I'm pleasantly surprised by how intriguing this movie ended up being. The actors did a good job, too, and I daresay Genghis turned out to be a likeable guy (refer back to the question about glorifying). I'm especially pleased with how much time they spent looking at the actions that shaped his life, and it made this recap of his life easier to understand on a human level. Even with the cheesy dialogue about living up to your ancestors, or treating women with pride, it worked out well, and I'd watch it again if I had to.

If anything, this movie has sparked my desire to learn more about this man. Growing up, most of the history that I was taught largely revolved around the United States and Europe. I didn't learn much about Asia until college electives, and even then, it was largely East Asian history. So it's sad to say, but I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to Central Asian history—even a figure as important and as historically renowned as Genghis Khan. I don't want to be “that girl” who decides to read about some topic because she watched a movie, but in this case, I did learn something. Check it out, and maybe you'll be just as entertained as I was.[TOP]

That's it for this week; thanks for reading! Now go out there and vote.

This week's shelves are from Jonathan Kinney, who had to navigate some tight hallways to get these shots. Either way, they look pretty good! Here are his words:
These are my shelves. These are the product of almost 7 years of collecting manga, I feel a slight surge of pride when I look at them. Keep in mind that my friends borrow my manga/anime constantly, so there are about 60-70 volumes missing at any given time.


Those are some handsome shelves.

Alright, want to show off your collections? Send in your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!


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