Shelf Life
Chi's Puffs

by Bamboo Dong, Aug 10th 2009

This past week, I spent a good deal of time traipsing around Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, and it was pretty fantastic. Growing up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, wildlife sightings are fairly common, but seeing a bald eagle in the wild for the first time is still pretty spectacular. This is why mountain states are the best.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Unlike 99% of Dragon Ball fandom, I was actually fairly optimistic about Dragonball: Evolution. I thought the inherent silliness and goofiness of the series would translate well into a wacky comedy action movie. I was also completely okay with all of the stills that 20th Century Fox was releasing because, I'll be honest with you, I think the outfits that the characters wear in the manga are pretty dumb anyway. I'd take a bad-ass pleather-clad James Marsters over some tunic-wearing green dude any day.

What I wasn't really expecting was for the script to be so insultingly bad. I didn't walk into it hoping for Citizen Kane, but I was hoping it would at least make sense—both to fans of the franchise, and to viewers who've never even heard of it before. It fails on both counts. Its solution to please fans is to run through a shopping list of characters, hoping that the mere inclusion of main characters will somehow pacify fans. Its solution to suck in non-fans is to make the movie play like a Disney Channel original, where some scrappy team of misfit kids end up winning the big game saving the world. They even made Yamcha a surfer bro, whose awkward lines are only surpassed by the actor's awkward delivery. The script doesn't explain where any of the characters came from, what their motivations are, or why we're even supposed to care. It doesn't even explain some of its own inventions, like why Goku is the high school outcast, even though he doesn't appear to possess any dorky or geeky qualities.

Before I get ahead of myself, I feel like I should run down the basic outline of this movie. Goku (called “Geeko” by his friends, because it also contains the letters “G” and “K,” I guess) has been training with his grandpa really hard in all sorts of martial arts. We know he's been training hard, because we're witness to an excruciatingly long scene where a single bead of sweat rolls down Justin Chatwin's nose and thuds into some desert in Mexico. When he turns 18, he inherits a Dragon Ball, and also goes to some sweet party thrown by the ultra-popular Chi Chi. While he's gone, Piccolo, this powerful alien who wants to destroy the world, kills his grandpa, burns down his house, and takes his Dragon Ball. Goku assembles a ragtag team of douche kids, and they run all over the desert trying to collect all the dragon balls. Oh, and he learns the Kamehameha, too.

It sort of resembles the plot of Dragon Ball. But honestly, that's not the problem. They could've made a movie that wildly deviated from canon, and I wouldn't have cared, as long as it was good. I'm upset that Dragonball: Evolution is good by nobody's standards. Only half the cast can act (courtesy of Marsters and Chow Yun Fat), the special effects are the stuff of amateur music videos, and the dialogue is laughably bad (“Let's go.” “We'll go, but we go together.”). And, as I mentioned earlier, nothing is explained. Part of the reason Fox marketed the movie the way they did was to draw in new viewers who might've never paid attention to the franchise before. But Dragonball: Evolution is no Star Trek. It doesn't stand alone on its own, and it holds almost zero appeal to people who aren't fans of the anime. It's a hastily thrown together product that caters to no one.

It's worth noting that the US release of the movie is much longer than the Japanese release. If it makes it better, I can't begin to imagine what the Japanese release must have been like, but supposedly there are more action scenes and slightly more violence. That is to say, there are more opportunities for bad CG, like characters spinning away from chi blasts, or flying through the air. But wait, it doesn't end there. The DVD release includes a whopping eight deleted scenes, which add nothing, but do succeed in drawing out an already painful experience. Highlights include watching Goku lift a car, listening to Bulma prattle about dragon balls, and watching Scooby and gang creep through the Dragon Temple. You can also watch a sweet video of two trainers who will teach you how to become a Super Saiyan, just like Goku. Just in case you're getting your sweat on too hard, one of them even cautions, “Hey, put that fire away.” And if that doesn't make you want to buy the DVD, then I bet this incredibly sweet music video will. And yes, it's included.

Typically, I enjoy bad movies, but Evolution was so disappointing that I forgot to laugh at its mistakes. I just sat in glum silence until the end credits finished rolling.[TOP]

After that dour experience, if you're still looking for a chuckle or two, you just might get it from Moeyo Ken… but only if you promise to turn off the DVD player after a few episodes. Anything after that will just spoil the fun. Good for a short burst, it's a high-energy monster-of-the-week show that wears out its welcome fairly fast, and never really reaches its full potential over its 13-episode run. Although I was fairly amused by the first four or five episodes, by the time the boxset had run its course, I was writhing on the floor, praying for it to end.

Set in an alternative-world Kyoto circa the Meiji Era, humans have learned that they can live peacefully alongside monsters. In a sort of Men In Black setup, monsters can register themselves and enjoy all the perks of human society, including restaurant service and the ownership of small businesses. However, there are still plenty of monsters that are unregistered, and it's up to the Mobile Shinsengumi to make sure they don't cause a ruckus. Descended from three prominent members of the real Shinengumi (in… contemporary era, real-life Kyoto?), our trio of heroines embrace every generic stereotype possible, ranging from the brash, busty one, to the quiet, mysterious one, to the sweet, but slightly ditzy one. Together with their boss's son, they make sure these affable monsters don't cause too much trouble—all while trying their hardest to play matchmaker with the son and a local waitress. Aww.

It's amusing for the first few episodes, but boy, does this formula get old fast (although I give props to the episode where they travel to the center of the Earth and end up face to face with Vernian dinosaurs). There's a finite number of “Look, I have big breasts, but you have small breasts!” jokes that anyone can stand before going nuts, and the wacky, Team Rocket-esque villains that show up in every episode are a real snooze. Mostly, it's just incredibly predictable, because it doesn't bother to deviate from the pattern even once. Given five minutes, a pen, and a paper towel, anyone could write the next ten episodes.

If there's one positive thing to take away from Moeyo Ken, though, it's that the show is able to reference fanservice without actually being lewd. The camera certainly doesn't shy away from breast-centric pans, but even with all the sex jokes, the show is fairly PG. It certainly isn't the first of its kind to serve up generic, big-breasted slapstick chuckles, but it's kind of refreshing to know that this already-bland show didn't need to stoop to another level to drag out some extra views.[TOP]

After burning out a few brain cells from the previous two titles, I settled on watching the last half of Heroic Age, a series that's actually grown on me quite a bit, thanks in part to Xebec's flashy animation. I'm also rather fond of the toothy, robotic bio-monsters they've created for the series, although I wouldn't be able to tell the different Nodoses apart even if someone held a gun to my head.

Without recapping too much of the series, the latter half focuses mostly on the continued conflicts between the five Tribes, shoving the different Nodoses into combat with each other as their respective Tribes fight for supremacy. And therein lies one of the greatest things about Heroic Age. The battles are absolutely gorgeous. Luckily, there are a lot of them. There is easily more time spent fighting than there is dialogue scenes, which is somewhat of a saving grace, considering how terrifying some of the character designs are. The large, cow-eyed Iron Tribesmen even made a cameo in one of my nightmares.

What makes the fight scenes particularly enjoyable is Xebec's incredible use of bright colors. From the swirling columns of blue used to denote interstellar warping, to the streaks of red used for ship shootouts, to the blinking bursts of white used for distant battles, even the most simplistic effects portray the various facets of battle perfectly. The vibrant colors practically make the screen glow brighter, and it's absolutely gorgeous. It's not just the fights, though—the different lighting effects are very appealing to the eye, and it really makes the CG pop.

The sound editing is particularly inspired, too, and once again, this comes out really well during the battles. It's obvious that the sound designers put a lot of thought into the movement of the ships and the robots, and it gives the scenes a realism that makes Heroic Age more watchable than your typical sci fi space adventure.

Of course, the glaring downside to the series is that it's not terribly well-written. Influenced loosely by Greek mythology, the story borrows bits and pieces of lore, including the five Ages of Man and Heracles' 12 Labors. Unfortunately, it becomes so lost in its preoccupation with its homage that it doesn't take enough time to let the audience in on the secret. The story gets convoluted, and although it's not difficult to follow, it is easy to get lost in the flurry of Tribes and conflicts, especially with the complexity of the Labors.

Still, Heroic Age is a visually pleasing show, and fans of science fiction and mecha would do well to check this out. Although the story isn't the most clear, it's provides a good vehicle for the animation, which packs a lot of flash and pizzazz. It's definitely worth checking out at least once, even if you don't make it all the way through the series.[TOP]

If you're not in the mood to watch any kind of serious anime series this week, do what I did—burn through 76 episodes of Chi's New Address in one sitting. Actually, it sounds daunting, but considering each episode is only maybe 3 minutes long, it barely takes four hours. If you're not like me, and you can't just sit there and watch cat videos all day, you can space them out in 3 minute chunks, which is perfect for anyone who actually has things to do besides watch anime.

Currently streaming on Crunchyroll, Chi's New Address is the sequel to the incredibly popular slice-of-(cat)life show, Chi's Sweet Home. Made up of bite-sized vignettes, they follow the incredibly cute (though often shrill) daily adventures of a cat named Chi as she settles into her second home. It's a fun little show for anyone who loves animals, and a great piece of entertainment for fans who enjoy these types of shows. A month back, I had a great time watching another slice-of-life show called Kaasan – Mom's Life, and for those who watched and enjoyed that, Chi's New Address is incredibly similar, in that it also shows the joys and stresses of domestic life… from a cat's perspective.

Although I was thrilled to death that Crunchyroll would be streaming this show, it's not for everyone. Even Kaasan had more mass appeal, because as I said earlier, this show (Chi, in particular) does get a tad shrill after awhile. As adorable as Chi is, her voice is comparable to Styrofoam rubbing against a plastic surface, and after a multi-hour marathon, your brain starts to melt. But you can't stop. That's the problem with these pesky, short shows, because they're pretty much the entertainment version of eating a bag of Cheetos. Each episode probably costs less than a bag of Cheetos to animate, too.

Chi's New Address would be fairly unwatchable on DVD, I imagine, because its short format doesn't necessarily lend itself well to plopping on a couch with a bag of chips, but it feels tailor-made for the internet. That it's available as a free stream is perfect, and it makes lunch time and breaks just a little more fun. I may never go near a DVD of this saccharine sweet show, but as long as it's online, I'll keep checking in for new episodes.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Tim Nguyen, who wrote this about himself:

"Name: Tim Nguyen
Age: 20
Sex: Male
How many years you have been an otaku: 10?
Nationality: Vietnamese born in Canada
Outline of your collection:Figures, Games, Anime, Manga, Plushies, Pillow Cases, and more.
How much your collection: tens of thousands? A lot okay? Spend like 3k a month on stuff. (started collecting figures only this year though)
Your fave item : Not an "item" but I'm proud of my manga collection, over 1000 North American released manga volumes.
I love making anime buds, ones in Canada, ON would be awesome cause I go to all the cons here and would love to meet more people, and nab a geeky anime girlfriend :3"

Supposedly he copied and pasted that from some other profile he has, but I forgive him, because I'm completely jealous of his anime budget. Seriously, I don't even make 3k a month. Also, he has a really cute kitty.





That's pretty amazing. I am impressed.

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


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