Shelf Life
Demon Days

by Bamboo Dong, Jul 13th 2009

I am so excited for Harry Potter. Words cannot even possibly describe the bubbling pool of nerdiness that is boiling within me right now. I stayed up all night on Friday to make my Ravenclaw robe, and I am all set to go. Also, in different, unrelated nerd news, I'll be at Otakon next weekend, so there won't be a Shelf Life next week, but if you see me, say hi!

Welcome to Shelf Life.

There really aren't enough fantasy shows about boys being whisked away to a new world. That's why Kyo kara Maoh! is so fun. It's cute and sassy, and it's utterly slashable, for all those fangirls (and boys?) who are into such things. Filled with bishonen, it takes the old formula of regular high school girls who are mysteriously transported to an alternate world/dimension and hailed as saviors and princesses—and replaces it with a snarky boy, who not only ends up ruling over a demon kingdom, but ends up betrothed to a dude, too.

Initially released a few years ago by Geneon, Funimation has finally released an economical, convenient way to collect the series (lucky for those who decided to wait it out). The entire first season is now available as a giant thinpak, although the skimpy cardboard case leaves much to be desired. It's certainly not as cool as the DVD booklet case that Geneon had packaged with the first volume, but at least this way, you get to keep all the cover art.

The series, as previously mentioned, introduces audiences to a high school-aged boy who is in the unfortunate situation of getting a swirly. Right as his head gets shoved into the toilet, he finds himself spiraling into a vortex, only to be tossed out the other end onto a picturesque meadow. Within minutes, he's found by a band of pretty boys who claim that he is the Demon King, who must help defend their kingdom against the ravages of war. Of course, our young hero is naturally adept at magic, and eventually becomes a much-beloved ruler. There are some fights and brawls, some jokes here and there, and for the most part, it's an interesting show for those who are craving a more male-centric (but still kind of girly) fantasy show.

With such a big cast of characters, there are plenty of people to like, too. Personally, I'm still a fan of the main character, Yuri, whose sarcastic sense of humor really comes out in the dub. With lines like, “I finally know what it feels like to be in an action movie—when they break down and hug,” his lines lightly lampoon some of the more generic elements of fantasy series, and it makes him an enjoyable character to watch. But alas, not all of the dialogue is clever. Here's an example that had me laughing for minutes: “I thought you said I wasn't the Demon King.” “I was just trying to win you over to my side. You are the Demon King.”

Wow, thanks. Way to throw the audience for a two second loop, there. Silliness aside, Kyo kara Maoh! is fun for those lazy weeknights when you just want something entertaining to watch. It's not a masterpiece, but the characters are a lot of fun, and as the series progresses, the situations get a lot more serious, and the goofiness is balanced out by a lot more drama and action. It's a long show, but if you have the patience to sit through it, you'll be rewarded.[TOP]

Moving from demon boys to demon ladies, I decided to check out the last volume of Claymore. Apparently, they reached the end of the series before the manga was completed, and it totally shows, because the story just cuts off in the most BS manner possible, and then just ends, leaving tons of questions unanswered. On the upside, there's always the manga, but that didn't change the soggy pit of disappointed that clung to my insides for a few hours.

First, a note about the visuals. Claymore has always wowed me with its choice of colors. For the most part, the series relies almost entirely on shades of gray, shades of red, and gold. This is especially obvious in the last volume, where entire scenes are animated in monochromatic patches of greys and blacks and decorated with splashes of red. Flashbacks are drawn in shades of reds, while every now and again, there'd be a yellow flash of eyes, or the yellow sparks flying off the swords. It's really dramatic, and it gives the series a chilling look, especially amongst the sea of dismembered limbs and impaling.

But alas, even the sweetest visuals in the world can't save a story from an unsatisfying, watery soup of an ending. To bring readers up to speed, the last time we joined Clare and her Claymore friends, they were up against an awakened lion man. He was slaying ladies right and left, but Clare jumps in to save the day by, once again, pushing the limits of what she can do with her youma power. Before she's barely able to cope with the consequences, though, Priscilla pops into the story, and then everything goes crazy. And then the story just ends. It just ends, even though there's all these bad guys still waiting for their turn, and there's some crazy long-haired guy who can pretty much take everyone down, but we never hear from him ever again because Clare just decides to wander off, and somehow the Organization is okay with it.

Bummer, seriously. I was really hoping for an ending that accomplished something, rather than just run away while viewers weren't looking. But even so, I'm happy for what the series did give me. I've really enjoyed Claymore, even if the last two episodes were ridiculous. The fights were a lot of fun to watch, even if they were gruesome at times, and I really got to like Clare over the course of the series. She was scrappy and hard-working, and even though she was kind of whiny at the beginning, she grew up to be a pretty awesome heroine. Now it's time to pick up the manga and see what really happens.[TOP]

And because I still didn't get my fill of demons, I headed for Kaze no Stigma, a show where element users get to throw around their powers without the hassle of having to worry about collateral damage or human lives, like when a wind user slices off the top few floors of a hotel. Based on a light novel series, Kaze no Stigma is a surprisingly fun show, even though it's incredibly shallow.

According to the patronizingly insipid dialogue that some of the side characters utter, we learn that a girl named Ayano “has strict parents, because she's part of an important family with a 1,000 year old history!” Which makes sense, because generally, when I talk to my friends, we also chat about each other's family histories. But we learn that her 1,000 year old family has the command of fire. Ayano herself has the ability to summon a fiery sword that can vanquish all sorts of demons. In comes Kazuma, a wind user who was kicked out of the fire family years ago for being weak. Four years later, he comes back, now with his very own contract to the Spirit King of the Wind, which allows him to command air. It would take far too long to explain all of the conflicts that occur from there, but in the end, Kazuma and Ayano end up working together to fight all sorts of bad guys who harbor grudges against the fire family and/or Kazuma.

Although the concept of elemental users is as old as human civilization, this show keeps it fresh by keeping the dialogue fast and the action high. The characters are loud and fun, even if our main characters are shockingly one-dimensional (even Kazuma's familial angst). Hardly any time is spent on character development, except for one-liners like, “You're always angry. That's what makes you a good fire user,” which allows for the story to barrel forward with its pacing. Now, that doesn't really make the series good, because the viewers barely get any time to know each side character before he or she gets killed off, but it does let it excel as a mindless, action-driven show that keeps your brain cells burning away at a happy rate.

I will say, though, that Kaze no Stigma really takes the cake when it comes to expositional one-liners. I've seen a lot of cheap methods to crank out information really fast, but this series really hits a new high (or a new low). I think the writers think they're being subtle about the way to dump out information, but it's really not working. (“That must be the [technique], which is a mark of someone who [explanation that sets up the whole show]!”) Fast and easy, but boy, is it lazy.

Heck, when it comes to cutting corners, this show is a pro. It's shocking, considering its Gonzo roots, but this show barely moves. Any given scene just recycles the same few cels over and over again. Relying on slow pans, and long scenes of dialogue where characters just flap their lips over the same facial expression, I would be shocked if the budget on this series was more than the cost of a few large pizzas. The characters only move when absolutely necessary, and unless they're fighting, you're just staring at people flapping their lips. Even so, the action scenes are fast and furious, so it'll keep your brain occupied with all the pretty colors. Because that's all this show is. Pretty colors. And everybody likes pretty colors.[TOP]

This week's featured streaming anime is Charger Girl Ju-den Chan, a show that left me absolutely bewildered. It's sort of a cute show about helping people solve their personal problems—but it's also filled with boobs and bodily fluids and moaning. And camel toes. I was so torn about what I was supposed to get out of the show. How can I focus on the feel-good message of the series when all the girls are feeling good in other ways?

The “Charger Girl” in the title refers to the professions of two gals in a parallel world. They are charger girls and their job is to fly around, finding people who are depressed. Then they charge them with energy, and send them along their merry way. One of the girls is a slow, but kind-hearted gal named Plug, who thinks it's more important to fix people's problems at the source. Rather than just giving targets a brief jolt of happiness, she follows them around and tries to understand what's causing their pain. Her partner, Arresta, is more cold and business-like, and accepts that her job is merely to charge targets when she spots them. In the meantime, there are breasts everywhere. They bounce around in these giant, swinging arcs, filling the screen with nipples. There are also crotch shots galore, and it's not uncommon for the girls to be moaning with ecstasy. Their transformation sequence involves some kind of fluid dripping from their tongues.

What makes it so unsettling is that the fanservice aspect of the series, and the curing-people-of-their-depression aspect of the series are completely at odds with each other. The message is a good one, and a strong one, and it's nice that these girls are tasked with helping people, but… the breasts? What? Why is there so much fanservice and nudity? Why is there a magical show on TV where the heroine just gets sexually dominated by villains every episode? It's not even sexy. It's just gross and weird.

Basically, this show is seedy and terrifying. If it was just a show about people curing depression, it'd be great, and probably really cute. If it was just a show with fanservice, I'd probably be okay with it too, because even I can appreciate some hilarious, bouncing breasticles. But not at the same time. The underlying stories are so sweet that I feel so dirty staring at nipples two seconds later. It's like having a delicious steak, and realizing that someone just slathered it with peanut butter. The two do not go together at all.

But hey, on the bright side, if you were looking for your weekly boob fix, then you know where to go. And your weekly therapist fix. Because this show is basically Dr. Phil, if he had porn stars sitting in his lap during the show. Horrifying image, isn't it?[TOP]

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

This week's collection is from Erin U:

"I've been collecting manga since I was in fifth grade and I fell in love with the art of Koge Donbo in the four-volume manga Di Gi Charat. Since then, I've collected nearly 600 volumes of manga and nearly 80 volumes of anime. I prefer to spend my money on manga, since I'm on the go so much and I don't have a lot of time to sit down and watch an anime. I have manga in four different languages; English, Japanese, French, and Italian. I've started doing some overseas traveling, so I've been collecting manga from the countries I've been to visit even if I can't read them. I used to collect plushies, but now I'm really in to figure collecting. I spend almost as much money on figures as I do on my books. I'm almost out of room, so I'm hoping to add more book shelves to my room in the very near future!"


I'm really digging those floating shelves. Maybe I'll have to redecorate my room...

If you want to show off your stuff, send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com! If it's been AGES since you sent your email, and I still haven't posted your stuff, please re-send them! Thanks!


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