Shelf Life
Under the Sea

by Erin Finnegan, Dec 6th 2010

I got a big shipment of anime in the mail today! Hooray! Now I can… rewatch Trigun? When did my life come to this?

Back when I was watching Trigun in college, I could never have predicted that someday I'd get paid to watch anime. It was hard to see my future at the time. I was stressed out about it a lot during my time college, especially my senior year. I can totally identify with the kids in Honey and Clover.

This box is the first part of season two of Honey and Clover. I think the first season might be Shelf Worthy, but I have some serious problems with the second season. I think the previous season finale with Takemoto riding his bike to Hokkaido would have been a great ending for the show. Sure, there were a lot of loose plot threads, but Takemoto's journey seemed so final.

Backing up a bit, in case you've never heard of it, Honey and Clover is a shojo title that follows a group of friends at an art college through graduation. Takemoto doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, and he's in love with Hagu, a pint-sized painting prodigy. Morita, an 8th year senior who's also an art prodigy, also has a crush on Hagu. Hagu's much-older cousin Shuuji is a teacher at the college, who hangs out with everyone. Hagu's friend Yamada is into pottery and is in love with architect intern Takumi, but it's unrequited, since Takumi has unrequited love for his much-older boss, Rika. (Sorry to mix first and last names so much.)

In part three we get the tragic story of Rika and how she got all those scars (emotionally and physically). Takumi is finally forced to confront Rika. Yamada comes to terms with the fact that it's never going to work out with Takumi. She does a lot of crying.

That's where the series starts to go awry; it's exasperating to watch Yamada cry across so many episodes. There are at least three or four episodes dedicated to her tears. The lesson seems to be that she should lean on her suitor Nomiya for emotional support. The “let me take care of you more” sentiment is something that strikes me as very Japanese, like the concept of Amae.

Equally irritating is Takumi's strange way of caring for Rika. He's been reading her email and web browser cache to keep tabs on her. He has a good reason to do so, but that is creepy stalker activity by American standards. Again, the lesson from his story seems to be that Rika should let Takumi take care of her more.

Finally, the second disc ends with a supreme bullshit plot point as something awful happens to one of the students. It's so over-the-top tragic as to seem unbelievable and it cheapens the show.

Spoilers aside, there is a certain emotional truth to Honey and Clover. It does capture something intangible about college life as well as that hopeless feeling of “I just can't get over him (or her).” You can get over him (or her), I promise, it just takes a long time and it's very painful (aspects that the series portrays very well).

This set does contain one of my favorite episodes. Morita's uncle tells his story of going into business with his extremely talented and gregarious brother (Morita's father). He is jealous of his brother's limitless talent and affability while they are growing up and the feeling continues into their adult lives. I can totally identify with Morita's uncle. It can be hard to live around extremely talented people, even when you love them.

I'm surprised this got a dub, but I guess I haven't been watching many Viz releases lately (they don't seem to send screeners). I watched all of Honey and Clover years ago, so it was jarring to listen to the dub. The adapted script is quite different from the subtitles, but it does a better job of clarifying what the characters mean when they say what they say. In fact, the adapted script is impressively thoughtful and carefully written. It might be worth a second look for the new translation, even if you've already read the manga.[TOP]

After a downer like Honey and Clover I had to lighten the mood with some comedy.

Sorry about all the Hayate reviews week after week. Thanks to the new anime shipment we'll get out of this Hayate cycle.

Last week in the forums someone pointed out that there is a Hayate dub, on Animax, only in Southeast Asia…and it's British! I am super-bummed that we couldn't get the British dub on the American release. Also, several forum-goers complained that they don't like Bandai's episode count per disc for this show. I think they put a fine number of episodes on each disc. However, I might be biased because it makes Hayate easier to review than 41 episode sets of Dragon Ball Z.

Anyway, this set includes the season finale and a New Years special. If this particular volume of Hayate is Shelf Worthy (it's not) it is because of the two-part finale. The crew pulls out all the stops for an over-the-top butler battle with homages to/parodies of Gurren Lagann that I suspect were animated by actual members of the Gurren staff.

The final two episodes of the season look more expensive than the rest of the season combined. In this case, what I mean when I say “expensive” is that the finale episodes look far more labor intense (more labor means more time and time equals money). There are excessive rotating camera moves (camera moves are harder to do in 2D than 3D animation), more shots and more scenes (more scenes equals more work), and in general a lot more movement.

Nagi delivers some cute hot-cold speeches to Hayate in this volume (I swore I wouldn't use that word again after a certain column.) I have a lot more sympathy for Nagi in this set than in previous volumes. She has a serious crush on Hayate, but he acts entirely asexual towards her (which is fine, considering the weird age gap). Ironically, Hayate is forced to cross dress (in a sexy way) to humorous effect more often in this volume than on previous discs.

There are no extras (clean opening and closings, be still my heart). Between the lack of a dub and the low-ish episode count and the complete lack of extras, I'm making this Rental Shelf. The season finale is worth watching if you like Hayate, but I don't think it's worth owning. You could even skip ahead to the season finale if you were getting tired of the show.[TOP]

Sea Prince and the Fire Child didn't have extras either, but at least it had a dub.

I hoped this movie would be Shelf Worthy, but it's not. It's definitely worth watching once, but there's no way it's worth a re-watch.

Sea Prince and the Fire Child (Sirius no Densetsu) was animated way back in… wait a minute! 1981?! This movie looks like a throwback from the 1960's! The disc includes trailers for Animal Treasure Island (1971), Taro the Dragon Boy (1979) and Puss 'n Boots (1969) and Sea Prince looks older than all of them! Sorry about all these exclamation points, but my entire review was going to hinge on how this is some old classic. Apparently it's not quite as “classic” as I thought it was.

As you might expect from the title, a fire princess and sea prince fall in love, and their love is forbidden by law. Things unfold as badly as you might expect in a world inhabited solely by fairies, fish, and gods. There are three really great things about this film that make it worth watching once:

1. Ponyo's mom is in it (sort of). In this myth-like tale, the queen of fire is depicted as a gigantic lady with red hair. The fire princess is tiny, fairy-like sprite compared the building-sized fire queen. Much like how Ponyo started off as a tiny fish with a human face, the “sea prince,” Sirius is a tiny merman-looking dude compared to his father, the gigantic god-like dragon-headed king of the sea. Similar to Ponyo's parentage, I wondered how these children were produced. Asexually? It's not clear from the film.

2. The film is full of great effects animation. Effects animation is stuff like falling rocks, smoke, lightning bolts, and ocean waves – and it's difficult to do well. Effects animators are the unsung heroes of the animation world. In 2D animation, effects design and animation is sometimes handled by separate people than the artists who design the backgrounds, props, and characters. Whoever handled those elements on this film did a very nice job.

3. The paintings behind the end credits are fantastic! I assume they were concept art for the film. Concept art for animated features often looks a lot more spectacular than the films themselves (look at concept art for Fantasia or Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland to see what I mean). Concept art is typically used to raise money for a film. The end credits of Sea Prince are awesome 70's style hippie fairy oil paintings on what looks like black velvet. I'd like to think that the folks behind this movie wanted to make some badass Dark Crystal story with sexy naked fairies, but instead Sanrio insisted on making the characters goofy so this could be more of a children's film.

The trouble is that it isn't a children's film at all! It's a Romeo and Juliet tragic romance, and kids don't usually like romance (it's my understanding that girls are icky until you're like, twelve). This is a melodramatic movie for teens where some brilliant executive has thrown in corny child-like sidekicks.

There is a dub, so you could conceivably show the movie to kids. Or you could just show them Cinderella, because that might be less boring for them. The dub script changes some of the character's names for no apparent reason and liberally rearranges and clarifies some of the dialog. The dub appears to fit the lip flap with a lot more precision than the Japanese audio.[TOP]

I love watching old 2D animation, but the original theatrical trailer for Puss 'n Boots on this disc puts Sea Prince and the Fire Child to shame.

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By the way, Animal Treasure Island is totally Shelf Worthy. It is early Miyazaki goodness and non-stop action fun for all ages. I watched it in the New York Children's Film Festival back in January, but couldn't review it for the column since the last DVD release was in 2005.

This week's shelves are from Jenny:

"My name is Jenny, and I've been collecting anime and manga since I was about 13 (I'm 22 now). I've got over 500 volumes of manga and growing, and more than 120 DVDs. Here's my collection."



Nice!

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