Shelf Life
Magic & Lyrics

by Bamboo Dong, Jan 12th 2009

Whoever thought Playstation Home would be a good idea deserves to be slapped in the face. After putting it off for a while, I finally hit X on its shiny button, and decided to check it out for myself. I spent a good half hour making a likeness of myself, realizing that no matter how much I tweaked the variables, I would still look like a generic 20-something white female—even after making every attempt to apply every Asian-looking feature I could find. At last, I stepped out into the (real) world—and was immediately assaulted by an army of idiots. Here, I had thought that “ASL????” had disappeared ten years ago. I was wrong! If there was any level of Hell that involved being surrounded by a den of 14-year-olds with USB keyboards, I was in it. Damn you, Sony. I shall never set foot in your world again.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

There are very few anime series that make me guffaw. And when I say “guffaw,” I mean the kind of short, violent laughter that bursts out unexpectedly, then disappears. A monosyllabic “HA!,” usually. However, When They Cry has always made me guffaw. Not that it's funny to watch little kids murder each other, but there's something in the way that the story is told that tickles my funny bone.

In the sixth volume, I tried to jot down every time I uttered a “HA!” One of them occurred when a girl suddenly appeared with a lead pipe. Another one occurred when the kids came to the conclusion that friendship means helping your buddies bury the bodies of the people they murdered. Yet another one erupted when one of them confessed to a history of violence, and his cohorts assured him that understanding and acceptance is what friends do. Well by golly, if that isn't heart-warming, I don't know what is.

This series is ridiculous to the point where I shamelessly recommend it to anyone asking for suggestions, followed up with the command, “Surprise me.” Because inevitably, by the time they see the kids with their wild eyes, brutally murdering people, you either love it or you loathe it. Even in the sixth volume, this formula does not get old for me. Finishing out the Atonement arc, the story starts off rather innocently, with Rena playing the sweetheart by trying to protect her father from his gold-digging girlfriend. In the end, people descend into madness, an alien conspiracy is invoked, and we get to see what PTSD does to little kids. It's all good stuff.

I always feel like a bit of a creep when I tell people to watch this show, because I'm fully aware that I'm championing a series where kids go on a slaying rampage. However, below all of that, there's this fiery energy that envelopes the story, and takes you along with it. As the characters slowly go crazy, there's something visceral about their mental change, and it's captivating. The situations are ridiculous, but it's intense, and it's hard to stop watching. It's shocking, it's gory, but it's oh-so-fun; the sixth volume doesn't disappoint at all.[TOP]

Next up was something notably much less shocking. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not within the realm of human imagination to create a series more generic than Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. If I didn't know it was a spinoff of a game and OVA series, I'd think it was a parody of the magical girl genre. Watching through the thirteen episodes was like getting pummeled with déjà vu, between all the magical staffs, the ferret sidekicks, the collecting-of-stuffs, and peppy ponytails. The main character's siblings are even swordsfolk, because all cool characters have sword-fighting family members.

The premise is fairly straightforward. During an excavation of some runes, a mage accidentally sent 21 “Jewel Seeds” flying all over the world. Luckily, they've all gathered within a few miles of the Japanese city where Nanoha lives. The mage is transformed into a ferret, who seeks out the help of Nanoha, a peppy third-grader with an innate talent for esoteric magic. She receives a gem, which is actually a type of remote access point for some heavenly network server. By merely wishing for something hard enough, Nanoha is able to execute various commands that allows her to generate force field shields, flying shoes, and whatever else she needs. Using her magic, she goes around finding those Jewel Shards, which can turn things into monsters, and seals with them with her Smart Wand.

Unfortunately, the dialogue crawls at a snail's pace. In both the Japanese and English versions, the characters talk incredibly slow, so it takes them a billion years to have a simple conversation. Listening to the girls talk was excruciating, and I kept wanting to shake them to urge them to pick up the pace. Even when Nanoha is in the middle of a battle, she speaks with the urgency of a postal worker, carefully picking over each and every word. My God, someone hand her a cup of coffee so we can all move on.

Despite this painfully generic show not really being my cup of tea, I can understand why some people like it. It's innocent and cute, and there's something comforting about watching a formulaic anime. You always know what will happen next, and sometimes that can be nice. Sadly, try as I may, I couldn't make it through the series without falling asleep. I feel like I've seen this show before, and the characters' slow talking didn't help.

If you're one of those creatures whose lifeblood depends on watching magical girl shows, then by all means, lap this up. The whole wand-that-executes-magic-formulas shtick is a bit contrived, but who am I to piss on a show about magical ferrets? Just don't be surprised when you're hit with the nagging thought that you've seen this all before.[TOP]

Now, with last week's Tales of Phantasia still lingering in my mouth like a fast-food taco, just about any other video game adaptation would look pretty darned good in comparison. Luckily, that honor belonged to Xenosaga, a twelve-episode series based on the events that occurred in the first (of three) Xenosaga game.

For those who haven't played the game, there's nothing to fear. Everything is explained as the series progresses, and with twelve episodes to do its thang, there's plenty of time to flesh out the story. Compared to the video game, it's still compressed, but the added background scenes really helps the flow and even gives insight that the game didn't provide. As far as video game adaptations go, this is one of the more watchable.

The story starts out on a ship that's been tasked with transporting a Zohar Emulator, a replica of an ancient power source. The ship is also home for the KOS-MOS development project, KOS-MOS being a combat android that's both sexy and deadly. At some point, the ship is attacked by Gnosis, these alienish entities that are after the Emulator. After a tussle, Shion escapes and is rescued by the crew aboard the starship Elsa. Needless to say, the action doesn't stop there. There are other enemies to contend with, and evil intentions lurking in the shadows.

One bonus is that the characters are all very easy on the eyes. Their stark coloration is a little off-putting at first, but there's no denying that everyone looks good. Shion is the lovable pince-nez wearing heroine, who's both youthful and sexy. Then there's KOS-MOS, whose outfit was designed to be a cosplayer's wet dream, and whose metal-hard abs could crush the entire Japanese Navy. Throw in some sugary sweet android girls and some burly marines who sweat testosterone, and you've got a range of characters who keep your eyes glued to the screen.

Admittedly, the first time I watched Xenosaga (back in 2005), I wasn't terribly thrilled about it. Even now, I don't know that I'd voluntarily watch it again beyond the most current viewing, but it has grown on me a bit. Considering that it's one of the more enjoyable video game adaptations out there, the series deserves its kudos. It's well-paced, tells an exciting story, and packs a visual punch. The soundtrack is beautiful too, and goes well with the constant forlornness of the main character. On the grand scale of anime, it's still rather mediocre, but it's interesting enough that it's worth perusing the entire series.[TOP]

Every now and then, anime companies re-release some of their older titles, and it's always entertaining to see how well (or how poorly) they've aged. One of these is MAPS, a four-episode OVA from the 90s that was a remake of the 1987 two-fer of the same title. Although, if you showed an episode to someone who's never seen the original, they'd probably not be able to tell the difference, because it looks ancient enough to be from the 80s. The characters even have those sculpted poufs that used to denote hair.

The hero of our story is a guy named Gen, who learns that he's the fabled Mapman of the Nomad Star Tribe. Encoded in his DNA is a map for some kind of galactic treasure, so him and his girlfriend join a scantily-clad blonde on a space adventure to track it down. Because space is a place where fashion doesn't matter, the blonde (who's actually a physical manifestation of the spaceship they're in) rocks such great fashion statements like pinning a red ribbon around her unmentionables. She also has some killer red boots that she wears, which goes well with her terrifying 80s hair. Anyway, along the way, they get into fights with other spaceships, and square off against a variety of aliens.

For some weird reason, there is a lot of nipple in this series. Mostly out-of-context nipple, in the sense that you'd be watching a scene and WOAH! Nipple! Considering the outright camp factor of this show though, it's not entirely surprising. After all, if you're going to have a show about aggressive aliens and busty women, you might as well throw in some cameo nipslips.

Sadly, the show isn't as fun as it has the potential to be. I'm down with goofy shows where it's just bright flashes of aliens, cannons, and nipples all over the place, but MAPS is disappointingly dull. The fights are unimaginative, and because it's just a show about a dude going around looking for treasure, every episode is almost indistinguishable from the next. Were it not for the fact that there are different blob creatures in each episode, it'd be easy to fall asleep and not realize that you'd missed anything.

There are old shows that can retain their charm long after they've debuted. Then there are shows that are prematurely old to begin with, and have a shelf life of about two days after their initial release. Why this thing has been re-released is beyond my comprehension. My best guess is that it's the only kind of dreck that ADV has left. Poor bastards.[TOP]

Well that's it for this week. See you next time!

This week's collection is from Dave, who had the following to say about his stuff:

Hi,

Well, here's my collection. I'm getting ready to redo some parts of the house and thought I'd take a few photos before I pack everything up. These are the three things that I collect, anime dvds, Berserk statues, and Macross planes.

I started collecting anime dvds earlier this year, had a few sets before that, but about 80% of what's pictured is what I picked up this year. I changed most of the packaging to clear dvd cases (couldn't stand the inconsistent packaging) and will get around to the rest sometime in the future. I also double packed some series to save space, such as Kimagure Orange Road, Death Note, etc and thin packed some into one box, IE. Harlock, which has Arcadia of My Youth, Maetel, Queen Esmeraldas, and Harlock/Herlock.

As for my Berserk statues, I started around Oct of last year and now have about 1 of each one that's been released so far. And as for my Macross collection, I only took a few pictures of them, most of the other stuff has already been boxed. They've been painted/weathered/decaled like the VF-1S and VF-1J by my artist.

Enjoy!!

Dave




Hey, good times.

Want to share your collections? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com! Thanks!


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