Shelf Life
Apples and Oranges

by Erin Finnegan, May 24th 2010

When I was a kid, my mom never forced me to eat anything I didn't like. Her policy was that I had to try everything on my plate, but if I didn't like it, I didn't have to eat it. Like most kids, I feared slimy foods and things with tentacles, but today I enjoy both natto and octopus. I delight in eating new foods that I've never seen or heard of before. My trip to Japan was a culinary adventure.

I just finished reading volume one of Toriko for popcultureshock.com, the hyper-manly gourmet hunter adventure series. Admittedly, I tried to read it online before it was licensed, but I couldn't get into it. The translated script flowed really well, so kudos to Viz! Whoever translated and rewrote it worked wonders.

Try Toriko, you might like it.

I tried Gunslinger Girl season one and I still didn't like it. Unfortunately, as a reviewer, I'm obligated to finish it.

I watched the first two episodes of Gunslinger Girl in 2003. I was checking out all the new titles that season, and I liked the movie Leon (a.k.a. The Professional), so I figured I'd give Gunslinger Girl a shot (har har). I stopped at episode two when I got creeped out. Sure, I liked the music, the premise, and the somewhat realistic gunplay, but something was wrong. (For more realistic gunplay, watch Gunsmith Cats.)

As a piece of entertainment, Gunslinger Girl achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It attempts to be slightly-to-very creepy, and it is. The viewer is supposed to think, "this is so wrong," and Gunslinger Girl is very effective in eliciting that reaction. In that respect, it's a winner.

Unfortunately, Shelf Life ratings are based on my opinions. Bamboo Dong may have really liked this show but I don't. The seven years between now and 2003 have really made me jaded towards lolicon. You can hear me talk about this more on ANNCast.

The production quality is high enough that Gunslinger Girl stays out of the trash. In terms of blazons, compared to Strike Witches, Gunslinger Girl is the Masterpiece Theater of lolicon. There are no sexual situations per se, and no close-ups of 11-year-old camel toe. There are fewer panty flashes in the first season of Gunslinger Girl than in Kiki's Delivery Service. And I still didn't like it. Earlier, I reviewed the OVAs, which were much more loli-tastic. Everyone said, "watch season one!" Well, now I have. Soon I'll watch season two.

I enjoy the science fiction aspect of this show. But as long as you're rebuilding little girls as super assassins, why not remove their tear ducts? The Social Welfare Agency is already removing other unnecessary parts. In one scene, Triela complains about having cramps and another girl mentions that her uterus was removed. (Skeevy!) I mean, it's implied none of them will live long enough to have children anyway, so…

Some fans will argue that they "really got into the characters" in the show. After season one, I still can't tell you much about Triela or Henreitta's personalities. Their past memories are wiped, and their current memories get re-wiped periodically, so there isn't much to go on. Henreitta is, uh… really nice? And Triela kind of likes teddy bears? Character traits like "enjoying books" are not the same as full characterization.

I would feel better about the show if the girl's didn't have an older brother/teacher/coach/lover relationship with their Handlers. But if they had more platonic relationships, what would be left of the show? The relationships are an integral part of helping the show meet its skeeving-you-out goals. I would feel less sorry for the girls if they couldn't cry and if erasing their memories didn't shorten their lifespan. But you're supposed to feel sorry for them.

In any case, the Blu-ray edition looks fantastic. The scene at the end where the girls sing "Ode to Joy" in front of a starry sky might be worth the price if you enjoy this series. However, some of the rare lower-quality scenes look much worse in HD than they would in standard definition.

Laura Bailey as Henrietta sounds like a dead ringer for Maxey Whitehead as Ellis in the El Cazador de la Bruja dub. They have both mastered the role of the emotionally repressed not-quite human young female assassin. The dub sounds less creepy than the Japanese track because all the girls sound a little older. There are a bunch of dub voice actor extras about building the characters.[TOP]

Gunslinger Girl is somehow simultaneously creepy and boring, but Initial D: Fourth Stage is somehow simultaneously exciting and boring:

A friend pointed out that I needed to see this Initial D parody on YouTube. Everyone should see it.

Last week I complained about Initial D's character designs. Sometimes you get a re-design when a TV series get a film, like in Escaflowne. I thought it was a little odd that the Initial D: Third Stage movie didn't improve on the designs a little. When I started Fourth Stage, I realized I was wrong; they did improve the character designs for the movie! Hyper sidekick Itsuki looks even grosser in the TV series, but occasionally unimportant side characters really get hit with the ugly stick, like this poor girl.

Fourth Stage picks up where the movie left off, as, Takumi joins "Project D," a team of local stars brought together by strategist Ryosuke. They take on regional teams and win, as you might expect. At one point, Takumi has to race against a professional racecar driver working as a ringer for the Toudou racing school. (Is the Toudou School even accredited? Do they offer Associates degrees in race car driving or what?)

This season gives us some insight into why Initial D is such a sausage fest. Nearly all the drivers and spectators in Initial D are dudes, with the occasional female challenger. At least in classic American street racing (in American Graffiti or Grease for example), the starting flag gets thrown down by a girl.

In this set, a rival team's chick driver, Kyoko, falls in love with Keisuke, Project D's uphill specialist. She falls all over herself, not just botching the race, but even getting caught helpless when her car breaks down in the mountains. Being in love even makes her want to dress cute (*gagging sounds*)! The show almost produced a likeable female character, then stole all her merit and rubbed salt in the wound.

Keisuke turns down Kyoko, explaining that he has no time for love if Takumi is out there practicing every night! (It's a good thing Takumi's girl moved to Tokyo.) Maybe repressing any sexual urges fuels Keisuke's racing, like how Go Nagai's editors would keep him away from chicks, enabling him to draw better comics (I have a reliable anonymous source on this).

About half the dialog of any given Golgo 13 episode consists of characters exclaiming how impossible it would be for a normal human to make such a shot. Initial D spends the same amount of time saying how impossible this-or-that is, followed by Takumi blowing everyone's minds. It gets more than a little repetitive.

Formulaically, before each race, Ryosuke gives Takumi Dumbledore-like vague advice that Takumi puzzles out just before the finish line. Dumbledore could never tell Harry Potter everything at the beginning of the book or the story would be over by chapter two. Likewise, Ryosuke hopes his pupil can piece together his clues in time.

Joel McDonald is much more emotive as Takumi in the series than in the movie. Josh Grelle makes Itsuki sound as spastic as he moves. I have to hand it to the dub team for working really hard to adapt the script into something more natural sounding. However, I can't help but think that the dub actors sound more like nerds than cool, working-class tough-kid racers. Then again, I don't know if Japanese street racers are cool in real life. The characters all talk like car geeks.[TOP]

I wonder if the hosts of Top Gear have ever seen Initial D? And has Top Gear ever had a mobile suit episode? The mobile suits in Appleseed are just as user-friendly for beginning pilots as Gundam, if we are to believe the movie.

I saw this movie at a special private screening at Asia Society in NYC with the producer present back in 2005. Word had gotten out and we relied on a friend who knew-a-guy who knew-a-guy to squeeze us into the "sold out" free movie (New York style). Afterwards, I hung out with friends from Central Park Media… wow, that's nostalgic! Good thing I blogged about the experience. I had forgotten many of the details since.

I wrote a caustic, comedic summary of the film on my old blog. (Don't bother commenting on that page, comment in the forums here instead.) I still haven't seen the Appleseed OAV or read the manga, although I've always intended to. I avoided Appleseed: Ex Machina on purpose.

The trouble with digital animation is that it dates really fast. I complained (above) back in 2005 about Appleseed's Toon Shader look, and the years have not been kind to it. Watching this movie in Blu-ray adds insult to injury for the Toon Shader characters. They look terrible.

However, the future cityscapes look great! If you love CG animation, you might want to get this disc just to slow-mo through the pans across Olympia. The mono-filament whip battle scene also looks really sweet in HD. It's somehow sharper than watching it on film.

The Blu-ray includes some totally sweet Japanese extras. There are two entire commentary soundtracks. I listened to one from the director and producer, who go into great detail about changes to the script and the technical details of the animation. This was interesting to me as someone with a once and future animation career, but I don't know how fascinating it might be to ordinary folks. There is a long and amusing anecdote behind the choice to make Olympia's highways look like frictionless glass.

Unfortunately, I was paying so much attention to the commentary and the ugly, ugly characters that I totally missed the new dub (and I still don't have a Blu-Ray player so it's too late to watch it again now). Fortunately, Theron goes into detail about the dub and some of the more technical specs in his review.

Here's why I don't like Appleseed; Aristotle outlined in Poetics six elements of theater, from most important to least important:

1. Plot
2. Character
3. Themes
4. Diction (writing, so, let's say the script.)
5. Music
6. Spectacle (as in Special Effects)

Appleseed, like a lot of movies (and also theater), values these elements in the wrong order:

1. Spectacle (Special Effects)
2. Music (It has a great soundtrack.)
3. Character
4. Themes
5. Diction
6. Plot

In general, I tend to agree with Aristotle. If a movie has a great plot, the special effects and music can suck and the story will withstand the test of time. If you need a bunch of cool ghost effects to save your production of Hamlet, as they say on the internet, "ur doin it wrong."

This is a very respectable release of the film, but that doesn't fix the weak script at Appleseed's core. I still think, five years later, that this film ought to end with bioroid sex-orgies. Y'know, based on where the plot was going.[TOP]

Congrats to Dave Roman (former editor of Nickelodeon magazine) and Alison Wilgus (my coworker and Maid of Honor), who co-wrote a comic that came out last week. The Last Airbender: Prequel: Zuko's Story is an Avatar the Last Airbender manga-style graphic novel drawn by the fabulous Nina "Space Coyote" Matsumoto, who is also the artist of the hilarious OEL manga series Yōkaiden (and perhaps most famous for her artwork "The Simpsonzu"). I haven't read the Zuko book yet, but I flipped through it. Zuko's scar looks brutally realistic.

This week's shelves are from Kimiko:

"Top shelf - Sorry for the glare on the Aria boxes. I couldn't take the photos without flash. To the right of Aria is Twelve Kingdoms, to the right of GitS: SAC:2ndGig is GitS: SAC:SSS.

Second shelf - Between Howl's and Elfen Lied is the Japanese edition (includes English subs, so why wait) of Ponyo. Sorry for the glare again. To the right of Elfen Lied are Mushi-Shi, Haibane Renmei, Ghost Hunt, Venus Versus Virus, and Ah! My Goddess! OAV, 1st and 2nd seasons, movie). Between Sasami and SoraKake is Murder Princess.

Third shelf - For the occasion I've put my anime-related CDs up here as well to make this shelf not look so empty. The CD titles are probably too small to read though. From right to left: My slowly growing collection of OSTs by Yuki Kajiura: .hack//SIGN 1&2, Noir 1&2, Madlax 1&2, Mai-Otome 1&2, Mai-HiME 1; GitS: SAC OST1, six CDs with music from K-ON!, all three OSTs and the Vocal Song Collection of Aria, Legend Of Mana OST, Etrian Odyssey 1 and 2 OSTs, and Perfume - Complete Best. The K-ON! picture came with one of the CDs."

Good choice of music!

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


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