Shelf Life
Air Raid

by Erin Finnegan, Nov 2nd 2009

I should've written about Halloween in my last column! D'oh, I timed it wrong. I really love the pumpkin carving contest ANN has every year, and I always look forward to seeing the winners. I used to work at a company with a really cool pumpkin carving contest every year, but I never won. One year I carved a pumpkin DS, and I put a lot of work into it.

I also didn't really pick the most Halloween-themed titles to review, but I did buy some "Lovely Halloween Pocky" this year. Why strawberry flavor, Japan?

Anyway, welcome to Shelf Life.

I feel really bad making One Piece Shelf Worthy, because it's over 400 episodes long. Episode 424 airs this week. At about $3.85 per episode SRP, it'd theoretically cost over $1,630 to collect the entire series right now. If each episode is 25 minutes, that's about 177 hours…. 7 and a half days of One Piece without sleeping just to catch up. Even though I like what I've seen, I haven't watched it out of fear of making that kind of time commitment. (Admittedly one episode a day for a year and a half wouldn't be so bad.)

So let's say you only bought/watched the best seasons of One Piece, and not necessarily the entire series. I would definitely pick up this box. This season centers on the backstory of the deer who wears shorts and a pink top hat. I asked a One Piece-watching friend years ago what was up with the deer-man.

"Oh, that's Tony Tony Chopper," she said, "he's a doctor." " “And he's a deer?" I asked. "Yes," my friend said, as if that explained everything. Turns out he's a reindeer, to be precise.

In this set, Nami has come down with a dangerous fever and Luffy and crew end up on a "Winter Island" looking for a doctor to help. The island has no doctors due to a complicated political situation, and the closest thing is a witch who lives on top of a mountain with her pet reindeer. (It reminded me of Cowa! which you should read if you haven't.) Sometimes she flies down on her sleigh, but there's no way to call her.

The mountain has a tall drum-shaped column with sheer rock sides (like a volcanic plug). This being a winter island, it's also covered in snow. Luffy and Sanji commit to climbing the mountain, carrying the unconscious Nami. Our heroes fight some giant, vicious, delightfully designed snow rabbits in a really amazingly funny action scene. The fight ends with Sanji falling unconscious.

Here's where it gets really good: Luffy is then left to carry both Nami and Sanji up the sheer face of the cliff, with Sanji in his teeth and Nami tied to his back. Of course, Luffy has insisted on wearing shorts, so he's getting pretty cold. Soon his fingers start to bleed. In one scene he cracks a nail, says "Ouch!" and momentarily drops Sanji. When he's almost to the top, he slides down 20 feet or so backwards and starts turning purple from the cold. This has got to be one of the finest scenes on television. I knew Luffy (and company) would make it, because they're still around for three hundred more episodes, but I was still biting my nails. I really almost cried. At the end of the season, I almost cried again. Only really great works can get that kind of emotional response from an audience. (In terms of anime, I've only cried during My Neighbor Totoro and Planetes). One Piece is also really funny at times. (You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss $40 goodbye.) That's solid entertainment!

This season also made me realize that Monkey D. Luffy may be the greatest manager ever. He's always upbeat, thinks everything is interesting or cool, treats adversity like an adventure, and he's loyal to his friends and true to his word. He defends the weak and fights for justice. I've had one boss who was kind of like that, minus the devil fruit (and the brawling), and everyone on staff had a great time. Let's all be more like Luffy at work!

I wish I could go back in time and watch One Piece right after DuckTales, when I was 10 years old. There were only 100 episodes of that and I swear I'd seen most of them five times each. I enjoy One Piece as an adult, but I regret that it wasn't on when I was a kid. I guess if I have kids, I could force them to watch it ("Oh god! Not more anime, Mom!" they'd say). I watched this set on a Saturday morning in my pajamas, and it was totally awesome.[TOP]

Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid is perhaps not as awesome. This is the first disc I've ever watched on Blu-ray. I guess that's not helpful in terms of comparing it to other Blu-rays... but man, what a sharp picture! When a character gets decapitated, you can really see all the details the animators drew in the neck!

I've seen the first season of Full Metal Panic, and most of Fumoffu, and I read the first graphic novel. FMP has never been my most favorite thing ever, but it's usually pretty entertaining. I like Fumoffu best because I like the comedy more than the action.

For the unfamiliar: Sagara grew up in war torn Afghanistan and eventually joined a secretive mercenary organization called Mithril. Already an elite soldier at the tender age of 17, he is assigned to guard Chidori, a 16-year-old target of international terrorist. Sagara enrolls in Chidori's school a la 21 Jump Street, and he's super paranoid, humorously mistaking love notes in shoe lockers for bombs. Chidori is none the wiser until the end of season one or so. Did I mention this takes place in an alternate future with mech-like fighting units called Arms Slaves?

In the Second Raid, Sagara's presence at Chidori's school is called into question. Does he really need to be there? Can he pass his classes AND fight terrorists in the third world? It turns out no and no - he keeps leaving notebooks borrowed from Chidori on submarines and Mithril assigns someone else to protect her.

Meanwhile, there's a new bad guy in town. A sleazy crazy dude heads a villain association, and you can tell he's evil by the way he kills his subordinates on a whim and sings opera during scenes of destruction and mayhem. Unfortunately, playing opera during battle scenes and over-the-top insane villains are old hat. I couldn't tell you when this became generic, I can only tell you that this guy feels like a cliché by today's bad guy standards.

Remember the new Star Trek movie from last summer? My friends and family (Mom's a Trekker) really enjoyed it, except the bad guy was totally weak. The acting in the rest of the film was very solid, but the weak, second-rate villain really dragged it down. The Second Raid suffers from the same problem. The right bad guy can really make or break a project. Everything else about The Second Raid is solid. The animation has high production values. Many of the action sequences play out like a Hollywood movie. There's decent character development. In one outstanding episode Chidori has to protect herself without Sagara around.

Even the henchmen, a couple of psychotic possibly lesbian sisters (twins?) are adequately evil and freaky. I watched this with friends, and we agreed that one typically doesn't hug siblings naked after a shower.

Before I read the novel, I didn't notice how many FMP details are not really explained in the anime. Particularly in the Second Raid, Mithril goes largely unexplained, and terms like Black Technology and the Whispered are thrown around without definitions. It's a bad place to start if you aren't already familiar with the series.

This was solid entertainment, but I don't think it was $70 worth of solid entertainment. Also, I've never liked this dub.[TOP]

Tokyo Majin is kind of the opposite, a dub I like with a show that's not nearly as entertaining.

Tokyo Majin starts off with a really great opening line in the theme song:

"Time to die!!!" the lead singer wails. And then:

"A perfect world!" Although screamed in the same voice, the second line is only about half as cool as the first line. Likewise, the first episode of this show is really amazing. The second episode is only about half as good. If the series proceeded at the same rate, it could be reviewed on a perfect exponential decay curve.

Unfortunately for the purposes of this review, the show doesn't decline in a statistically predictable way. The first episode has the look and feel of a series finale; a zombie horde is attacking the city, meanwhile a Buddhist priest is chanting magical spells to fight the yakuza. A huge demon-spider thing appears, and a lot of badassery ensues, executed in part by a group of high schoolers with some magic demon-fighting abilities.

The second episode is like a flashback of the teens discovering their powers. I really like how the characters don't have much in common: the captain of the archery club (a chick) and her rich girl friend end up hanging out with the doofy jock captain of the wrestling club, plus the school's thuggish bad boy gang leader, and a quiet and mysterious transfer student all end up being friends because of their powers. The bookish and Smarty Smurf-like Chief Editor of the school newspaper ends up following them around. She's pretty grating, but the other characters are alright. (Does she know she won't have a job in 10 years? Good luck writing for newspapers, spaz!) I started to think of the motley crew the Scooby Gang, even though they were after demons and not ghosts.

I really like the character designs (except the doctor who looks like a giant squashed frog). The designs tend towards the more realistic rather than the cartoon-y, with muted colors. This show reminds me of the Gatekeepers 21OVA, which was a darker take on the brighter, more cartoon-y Gatekeepers TV series. It also made me remember Shamanic Princess, an OVA from 1996. Actually, Gatekeepers 21 and Shamanic Princess are both pretty forgettable, just like Tokyo Majin.

Something is missing from Tokyo Majin. It's hard to put a finger on, but it's lacking some kind of spirit. (Oh ho! A show about demon hunting and the spirit world is lacking in soul!) I couldn't really get into the characters. It's probably because this was based on a videogame.

A couple episodes early on are devoted to developing a recurring character with lighting powers. He started a band with his BFF, called CROW, only to have some demon take over his bud's body and give him creepy crow powers. The CROW arc is pretty lame, mostly because the band is too deliberately moody and crows aren't scary enough. I mean, if I hadn't been to Japan, I'd never believe crows could be scary at all, but let me tell you, Japanese crows are three times bigger than the North American variety, and sometimes they attack garbage men!

You know who I really hated? Aoi. She's kind of the ojou-sama type. She's got a lot of powers, but she just wants to save everyone, even the bad guys. She's so powerful that one member of the Scooby Gang has a clan duty to kill her. If the archery captain wasn't the badass girl in this show, I'd be more annoyed and call misogynist shenanigans.

The dub is really solid, with minimal yet effective script changes. But aren't they pronouncing "shoganate" wrong? Some of the cooler fights are unfortunately set to classical music reminiscent of a De Beers diamond commercial. In one or two of the fights, the characters suddenly have like six pupils per eye, which is pretty cool.

By all rights, this would make a very fine six episode OVA. I mean, I was bored by episode four. Unfortunately, the show is 26 episodes long. It wraps up pretty well at episode 14 and then introduces new bad guys for season two.[TOP]

So there you have it. I'm sure everyone is waiting for my first "Perishable" title. Hopefully, there will be one next week.

This week's shelves are from Hunter Sopko:

"I'm moving soon and I'll be putting all the disks into binders, so I figured I would finally get pictures of the whole collection in case something happens. The DVDs and games came around from about ten years of collecting. The knick-knacks just kind of accumulated. The gems of the collection are the signed Fool on the Planet, the GE999 VHSes, the original FLCL box, and the final, almost impossible to find box of Maison Ikkoku (though I'm also partial to the posterboard of Iria). The games on the smaller shelf are the ones I still need to play, and the games on the large shelf are the ones I've already finished."



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


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