Shelf Life
Moonlight Sonata

by Bamboo Dong, May 18th 2009

The problem with buying a package of cookies is that I'm torn between gobbling them up immediately, and savoring them. If I gobble them up, not only will I be hit with an immense wave of guilt, but they'll also be gone too quickly. If I wait, they run the risk of being stale. This upsets me the most when it's Milano cookies or Oreos, two brand names that almost everybody on the planet likes. Both my Milano cookies and my Oreos are now stale. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't find the tears.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Despite its somewhat bland name, Night Head Genesis does fairly well for itself when it comes to creating some seriously creepy scenes. The first few episodes alone are a fairly good indicator, prominently featuring a side villain who's obsessed with beating purple-clothed women to death. Uplifting, huh? Things only get darker from there, until things eventually spiral into people deciding the fate of the world. Throw in a couple of creepy kids and a secret organization, and you've got yourself a hate-filled supernatural story that'll leave you wondering who pissed in their collective cornflakes.

The two heroes who are supposed to be good, but whom I'd never want to be friends with, are brothers named Naoya and Naota. Naoya can read the inside of someone's heart when he touches them. Not only does this allow him to see everyone's troubled past, but if they're particularly bad people, he can see their future misdeeds, too. Naota has psychokinesis, which allows him to do the usual range of mind tricks, like bending spoons, breaking windows, and moving things with his mind. After escaping from the orphanage they were sent to for freaking out their parents one too many times, they realize that they can use their powers for good. They stop crazies from killing people, avoid the apocalypse, and eventually, save the world. There's also this girl who can see the past, present, and future, and has this awkward flashback where she sees a montage consisting of dinosaurs, Chichen Itza, Jesus, Nazis, the H-bomb, 9/11, and what I can only assume is the Iraq War.

Night Head Genesis is good for two things: seeing pretty boys clench their fists and/or cry in agony, and fulfilling some kind of sadistic wish to see lots of cartoon people get killed or maimed in brutal ways. For anything else, it only makes a feeble effort to hit mediocrity. You'd think a story about saving the world would be pretty exciting, but this series manages to crawl along at stiflingly slow pace. The only thing slower than the plot advancement is the animation, which nobody even tried on.

You know the animation is bad when, a few scenes later, you have to stop and think, “Waaaaait a minute. Didn't the main characters look different a couple minutes ago?” And your hunch would be right, because the artists can't be bothered to be consistent about anything—the facial features, the body proportions, anything. The only way you really know that the two brothers are on the screen is because one of them is always angry, and the other one is always crying. Don't get me wrong, I'd be crying too if I was always seeing dead people every time I closed my eyes, but I'd hope that my body wouldn't morph into weird shapes every few minutes.

Night Head Genesis is okay. It's good for those weird freaky nights when you say to yourself, “Boy, I wish I could watch a show where everybody needs to calm down and voluntarily go to jail,” but other than that, eh. I almost feel like the story would be better as a Stephen King novel, instead of a crappily animated show with goofy dialogue. Alas, it's not. Maybe you can just turn off the lights and pretend.[TOP]

For something a little more cheery, fans can enjoy Moonlight Mile, a show about burly men who have so much testosterone, Earth just can't contain it. That's why they have to go out in space, where every muscle flex can deflect asteroids and solar rays. The last time I saw so many ripped, shirtless men was when I was in an evil YouTube spiral of body building competitions, and even some of them would have cowered in fear at the men in this show. Not even the Hulk could compare to the show's leading men, who have masculine names like Goro and Longman.

Both avid mountain climbers, they conquered the Seven Summits by their late 20s. After reaching the peak of Mt. Everest, they realized that the only way they could surpass their accomplishments was to go up into space, so Goro became a construction expert, while Longman became a Navy pilot. Both are so manly that not only are they naturals at everything they attempt, but they also have copious amounts of sex. Goro likes to have sex in construction cranes, while Longman always needs a good luck session before he goes out in his plane. Together, with their vast expertise (in flying/building/sexing), they eventually make it up to the moon, where scientists have discovered copious reserves of Helium 3, which will supply Earth with enough energy to solve its energy needs forever.

Did I mention that the guys really like sex? Because they have a lot of sex. In fact, this show really enjoys talking about it and showing it. One of the first scenes in the series is Goro having his way with a couple women with giant knockers. The best part? The background music, which is better suited for documentaries about the Sarangeti. Nothing says passionate love-making like a drifting clarinet solo and the dull roar of a timpani. This is pretty much standard throughout the show, whether it's people getting it on in a bed, or getting blowj's in the Jacuzzi. Goro's sexual prowess is so admired by everyone that he even has this parlor trick where he rips off his drawers in bars and does something he calls “the Giant Swirl.”

While Moonlight Mile may not be the most highbrow of anime, it does pack some gorgeous animation. One of the first things that jumped out at me was the creativity of the “camera” placement. To give an example, in the first episode, we don't just see a shot of two guys scrambling up a mountain. We get a shot of a gloved hand grabbing a crevice, then an upwards shot showing their progress from below, then a glove clutching a rope, then a puff of condensation from their mouths, then a pickaxe digging into the ice. It's absolutely gorgeous, and it makes for a really rich viewing experience. The guys never just fix machinery, or just drive a car—you see the action from several different vantage points, every single time. It really shows you just how much you can do with animation, and it's fabulous. Also, check out these slick screencaps. This is a good looking show—even if they devoted an absurd amount of time to tracing muscle outlines.

Moonlight Mile isn't so much about space itself or the lives of astronauts. It's more of a testament to what man can accomplish. It's a show that shows the hyperdrama and glamour of space, told through men so virile they pee sports cars and brisket. It's not something that will really hold up under intense scrutiny, because it's basically a bromance set to PBS Nature music, but it's really entertaining to watch. The men are easy to cheer for because they're so confident and good at what they do, and they make space look badass. This is definitely worth watching at least once, at least for the visuals.[TOP]

If you're feeling a little insecure after watching the last title, you can always watch people who are much weaker and dumber than you to make you feel better. I'm talking, of course, about the never-ending adventures of Shin-chan and his butt. Every time, I think that I've about had it with this show, and I'm prepared to never laugh at another Jack Bauer or Republican joke ever again, but each time, I feel that smirk tugging on the corner of my mouth. Before I know it, I'm laughing out loud, and a wave of shame crashes over me.

Like most Shin-chan box sets, you get a wide variety of themed episodes to suit your mood. My favorites tend to be the ones where they're lampooning other genres: last time, it was the Star Wars one; this time, it's the continuation of the Shin-chan: The High School Years saga. Luckily, it's right at the beginning of the set, too, so it puts you in a good mood for the rest of the episodes. Basically, they've taken all the characters, gave them 10 years, and plopped them in high school. Of course, all the characters look the same, but now Shin is an aspiring boxer who has to face one of his toughest enemies yet—a Russian fighter named Sergei who spouts delightfully clichéd jokes like, “In Russia, Hell goes to you.” Bonus points goes towards the warning, “It's Sergei's new punch! It hurts like a train! It's like his punch is the train, and your face is the tunnel!”

Best of all, though, was the music. Every important scene was met with a somber choral arrangement, making that whole saga seem like an episode of Boston Public. Lyrics included the now somewhat tired joke: “Here's a montage, here's a montage, watch him train!!!” Aside from that gem, everything else on the disc was your standard Shin fair. He occasionally makes a fart joke, while his friends punch stuffed rabbits, talk about Ralph Nader, and so forth. It's all fun and games, even if you've heard the jokes before. Because let's face it, a good chunk of the jokes are recycled Internet gags and reused comedy bits.

Still, Shin-chan is somewhat like an old pair of socks. It may be a little worn out, and the logo may have faded a long time ago, but it still fits, and it still feels relatively comfy when you're lounging around the house. I'm at the point where I no longer anxiously rip the shrink wrap off new boxsets, but I never regret watching any of the episodes. Even if I'm pretty sure I want to punch each and every character at this point. Like a train.[TOP]

There was one nice surprise in my mailbox, though. For those who can think back to the days of Geneon, one of their most spectacular titles was a gorgeous action series called Last Exile. That's finally been re-released as a thinpak, and it's a joy to revisit. Taking place in a world that is both technologically advanced, but delightfully old school (like cannons being fired off the decks of wingless battleships), it plops viewers in the middle of a war that packs more secrets and hidden agendas than first thought. Using the battles as the backdrop for the narrative, we get to know two two younguns named Claus and Lavie, two couriers who find themselves caught in this bloody conflict. Along the way, they end up meeting an enigmatic girl named Alvis, whom they must deliver to the battleship Silvana.

Last Exile is a series that's hard to describe succinctly. One of the first things that will jump out at any viewer is the steampunk style that permeates the series. The visuals and social customs are based on the Victorian era, only with no shortage of technology, from flying ships to all sorts of things with lasers. Throw in some clunky steam engines, and you've got yourself a magical setting for this surprisingly intense action adventure. Another relic of the era from which the series is based is the tangible contrast between the upper and lower classes. This clash doesn't dominate the show, but it's always lingering in everything the characters do or respond to, and it makes for a cerebral viewing experience that's worth watching a couple times.

Since the series has come out, Gonzo has created some works that are even more visually stunning than this one, but even now, it's pretty to stare at. The blending of 2D animation with the sharply rendered 3D mechs can be a little awkward at times, as such things tend to be, but it (somewhat unintentionally) goes a long way in promoting the retro-futuristic vibe inherent in the show.

When it first came out, it quickly became a fan favorite in some circles. Cosplayers were dressing up like Alvis for years, and I saw that little plush goat of hers at every convention I went to. Now that the series has faded away from most memories, it's an appropriate time for a re-release. If you haven't seen this series yet, you should definitely track it down.[TOP]

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

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This week's shelves belong to Jenna Singleton, who won me over with a picture of her cute cat. And her manga.

"After seeing everyone's collections, I wanted to show off my little display as well. I recently hi-jacked my bookcase and re-located most of my books to accommodate the anime/manga obsession. It makes a nice holding place. The two small racks in the other shot are my games and the other dvds I couldn't fit on my shelf.

I've been working on my collection for the past couple years now, but have probably only added most in the last year. Most of the manga is 2-layer deep (or more), but essentially all the series are complete up to the most recent release. And there's my kitty Draco in one of the shots ^_^."

Awww, kitty.

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


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