Shelf Life
Dirty Dancing

by Erin Finnegan, Nov 15th 2010

As I write this, I'm in Michigan for a high school friend's wedding. Michigan in the fall reminds me of football, although the high school football season is probably over by now. I can't remember our varsity team winning a single game the entire time I was in school.

How fitting that I watched some Eyeshield 21 this week.

This second part of Eyeshield (I reviewed part one here and here) sits squarely on the fence between Rental and Shelf Worthy. I'm holding out hope that the series on the whole is still worth owning, but this set wasn't exactly a winner (insert your own football metaphors here).

Across these two discs, the Devil Bats face off against the Taiyo Sphinx “Egyptian” team and the NASA Shuttles. Between the games, the episodes have a tendency to drag, and the non-game episodes are more likely to be drawn off-model and weakly animated. But since I'm not interested in football, I don't mind the stories off the field. I particularly enjoyed the episode where new members tried out for the team by running up the stairs to Tokyo Tower holding bags of melting ice. Although I don't care for sports, I absolutely love sports training montages.

In another off-the-field episode, fatty linebacker Kurita gets involved in some trouble in town while wearing his school uniform. There's a lot you can learn from this episode about Japanese culture. Kurita tries to quit the football team preemptively, just in case he's kicked out of school for vandalism. (He's being unjustly accused, of course.) Kurita doesn't want to risk bringing shame or trouble to the football team, let alone the school. Watching this episode as an American this seems ridiculous, but in Japan, your status as a member of a group is more important than your status as an individual. As an American, I think individuals are held responsible for their actions and are less likely to bring shame upon an entire group.

Speaking of groups, what is up with the ridiculous theme teams in this show? The Sphinx's field is made of sand (which somehow doesn't affect gameplay like Astroturf or snow or mud would). Their captain dresses like a Pharaoh. I'm surprised the story arc didn't have a Moses joke.

So, if you're Egyptian, did the "Egyptian" team offend you? I ask because the American team has a totally racist coach. The one African American character is forced to carry all the baggage and act like a water boy, despite being the most talented player on the team. Sure, the coach is provided with some back-story explanation about his attitude, but what comes through is stereotype of a stereotype: the coach is a rich, obnoxious, racist jerk.

In any case, the show maintains a steady beat of football comedy. There's even an element of Looney Tunes violence thrown in by a sharp-toothed dog, who reminds me of the dog from Ramen Fighter Miki (which is streaming on Crunchyroll, and the first four episodes are hilarious). Speaking of Looney Tunes violence, I'd like to suggest the following Eyeshield 21 drinking game: 1. Drink every time a character appears to injure their spinal cord but walks away OK. 2. Drink every time one of the plays would be considered illegal in America. (Surely you will die of alcohol poisoning after just one episode).

Maybe the newness of Eyeshield 21 is wearing off on me. They have to keep upping the ante to keep it interesting and funny, which isn't going to be easy over 145 episodes. I assume that when they finally get to the Christmas Bowl, they are so desperate to attend, it'll pick up.

There is no dub and there are no real extras to speak of. [TOP]

Dirty Pair doesn't have a dub or extras either, but there is no question it's worth owning.

I wish I could've watched this in 1987 (the series was made in 1985). Back then, my sci-fi fandom was at fever pitch as I waited for the debut of Star Trek: the Next Generation (after a small lifetime of watching the original Trek in syndication). Dirty Pair fits exactly into a science fiction canon of my personal favorites; the original Star Wars, Star Trek, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the 1981 BBC TV series) and old school Doctor Who. If you love science fiction, this deserves a place on your shelf. (There are even references to Dirty Pair in ST:NG.) Dirty Pair hails from a time when science fiction was real science fiction, and laser guns were real laser guns, (and “...small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri”).

Kei and Yuri work for the World Welfare Works Association, and want to be nicknamed the Lovely Angels, but due to their habit of heavy property damage and high causalities, they're known as the Dirty Pair. In this series of (mostly) stand-alone episodes, Kei and Yuri always accomplish their missions but manage to “blow up half the harbor” in nearly every episode. They stay employed (somehow) because they always achieve the mission's objective. (They are clearly not winning the battle of “hearts and minds.”)

I've never watched Dirty Pair Flash because for me, the character designs are vital to this show. Dripping with nostalgia, the designs are heavily reminiscent of old-school Rumiko Takahashi. It's difficult to describe in words, but everyone is very rounded; even the spaceships look plump and bouncy compared to today's designs. Even the gag moments are stylized in a way that's long since gone out of style. The series is a visual homage to contemporary sci-fi of the late 70's and early 80's, including the original Battlestar Galactica. In another nod to the genre, in one episode the girls fight a horrible alien slug creature from the Lovecraft system.

The first three episodes must've been incredibly difficult and expensive to animate, especially in the days of cell animation. Crowd scenes, cityscapes, and mass evacuations thereof are incredibly time consuming to draw by hand. More moving characters basically equals more pain on every level of an animation production. That's why animators try to cut corners with silhouettes and identical “extras”.

There are also tons and tons of “cuts” in each scene (more cuts = more expensive). Surely, Dirty Pair was produced at the height of Japan's economic bubble! You don't see animation like this anymore, (except maybe in the all-hand-drawn upcoming sci-fi epic Redline).

Not every episode is a budget-busting piece of greatness. After the first three shows, things start to calm down a bit. Episode four is a cat chase. Later in the set, Kei and Yuri are occasionally drawn off model and fewer cities get evacuated.

The Dirty Pair are absolutely delightful characters. Yuri is the girlier one, who's smarter but less wise, while Kei is hot-headed and more athletic. They've got great banter as they walk the line between bickering and being best friends forever.

There may not be a dub or extras, but the opening and ending themes are so great they're worth watching every single time (and maybe learning for karaoke). I'm looking forward to Part 2, which comes out in February. [TOP]

I hope that someday there's a release of Golgo 13 part three…

I got parts 1 and 2 of Golgo 13 together as a gift from a friend. If I were doing the buying, I would have totally bought them at the same time, because I love Golgo (remember last week?). I even own the Sonny Chiba Golgo 13 movie, although I haven't watched it yet.

Rest assured, part two is more of the same. Golgo kills some guys with frightening precision. I think Golgo sleeps with fewer women in this set. That said, every time I thought Golgo hadn't gotten laid in a while, he'd sleep with another chick in the very next episode. In one episode focusing on two female members of the Irish Republican Army, Golgo actually showers with a lady (unusual!) and in a moment of unprecedented tenderness, they sort of hold hands while sitting together in bed. Well, the lady holds Duke's hand, and with good reason (no spoilers). It was about as touching as this series gets.

Golgo must stack up a lot of frequent flyer miles, which I suppose is inevitable in such an international career. God forbid you ever end up sitting next to Golgo on a flight. Usually, Golgo's on his way to his next job, but half the time Golgo seems to be hired to kill someone on the plane. That said, even on incident free flights Golgo never sleeps, reads, or listens to music. He never even peruses the Sky Mall catalog. The manga pre-dates BlackBerries and cell phones, and even though the anime seems to take place in the present day, you never once see Golgo checking his email on a smart phone. For some reason I find that incredibly intimidating. Golgo's focus is so incredible he never gets bored.

I love this show, and I'm willing to laugh at it when it's absurd, but the dub track goes too far. (I'm surprised there is a dub at all from Sentai Filmworks.) Part one had some hammy regional accents, but in part two the acting quality of the supporting cast drops considerably and they start throwing in contemporary jokes that aren't in the subtitled script. At one point where some characters are discussing the difficulty in getting good bodyguards they say, “America couldn't even protect its first black president.”

I wouldn't mind the added jokes if they were funny. It would be better if the cast were playing the entire dub track for comedy, like in Sgt. Frog or Ghost Stories. As it is, they're doing comedy half way. It's like the dub studio couldn't take Golgo 13 seriously.

I didn't get a chance to mention it last week, but I love the incidental music in this series. The timpani drum works so well to build suspense and tension. The opening and ending themes are good songs, too. The last episode has new opening and closing sequences, heralding the start of a new season. I don't have high hopes that Sentai Filmworks will continue to release this show, but I hope that they do! I'd just appreciate it if the dub cast either took the work more seriously or went for all out comedy. [TOP]

Coincidentally, I wrote most of this week's column on a flight.

My parents live in very rural area, where there is no cable television or internet service without shelling out for satellite service. They have DirectTV but refuse to pay for expensive internet service and insist on using a dial-up ISP. Maybe that would be OK, if their ancient phone lines weren't gnawed on by squirrels. Furthermore, you can't get good cell reception unless you're on the porch, and even then it's pretty spotty. In short; the shows I'm watching for next week's column are all on DVD and not streaming.

This week's shelves are from Nick:

"This is my collection. I have been collecting manga, anime dvds, games, and figures since around 2005. Currently I have around 200 manga and am still expanding my collection. My favorite manga would have to be Berserk and my favorite plush would have to be my Zorua. I do hope that someday my collection can be as great as some of the others feature in Shelf Life."







Looks pretty great already!

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


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