Shelf Life
Summer Kamp

by Erin Finnegan, Sep 26th 2011

I'm taking next Monday, October 3rd off from Shelf Life to go to Anime Weekend Atlanta. Never fear, Bamboo will cover Shelf Life in my absence.

If you're going to AWA, be sure to check out my panels: Unusual Manga Genres is on Friday at 6:00 PM, 21 + Manga and Anime is on Saturday at 9:00 PM, and Culinary Manga is on Sunday at 2:00 PM. All my panels will be in room 106.

Leaving New York City for just one weekend means that I'm missing the pumpkin beer festival at Idle Hands bar (argh). Speaking of alcohol and travel, I watched season two of Spice and Wolf last weekend.

You know, I learned a lot by reviewing Spice and Wolf season one. I learned never to use words like “furry” or “tsundere,” even if I think I know what those words mean. I learned that many readers consider “Rental Shelf” to be a pan (I disagree). I learned that anime fans love Spice and Wolf.

Fortunately, I liked season two a lot more than season one. Season one had a lot of dry talk about currency exchange and wolf-girl nudity. In season two Holo the Wise Wolf stays clothed most of the time and flirts with Craft Lawrence while he closes business deals. I enjoyed this season of Spice and Wolf largely because Craft and Holo's flirting was sexy and intelligent. It's a rare anime series where two intelligent characters flirt in a sophisticated fashion. You may remember that I was weirded out by the unequal power relationship in Chobits. Spice and Wolf is the opposite; Craft and Holo come to regard each other as equals. Holo may have godlike powers, but she's dependent on Craft to help her find her homeland, especially in this second season where it turns out Yoitsu may be difficult to find.

I still think it's weird to have a dramatic question like “Will Craft Lawrence lose his shirt on this deal?!” Halfway through, Craft may finally get the chance to open the store he's always dreamed of, but that would mean his journey with Holo would end, and Holo would be left alone to find Yoitsu. Both of their dreams are in direct conflict, and I think that's something a lot of couples can identify with. Sometimes one person has to sacrifice where they want to live for the sake of their spouse's career. It's a tough decision, and it's nice to see something so mature in anime.

In fact, between all of the business deals and mature adult decisions, I think Spice and Wolf is true “Adult Entertainment.” (Nothing untoward happens.) I'd also like to point out here that Holo drinks like a fish in this arc. (You can't show that on Cartoon Network.)

This deluxe set comes in an art box with space for season one. I've gotten used to Brina Palencia's bizarre affectation of Holo's formal speech by now. This is a fine dub, and I'm glad the dub screenwriting adapter managed to get in the flirty nuance. The adapted dub script is a lot smoother than the subtitle script, so much so that I preferred the dub.[TOP]

Too bad I couldn't take The Twelve Kingdoms dub, because I love that show.

I've seen Twelve Kingdoms before, (I even read the first novel and reviewed it), but I always rented the show. I've always thought it was too expensive to buy, and this Blu-ray release seemed like a good opportunity to collect the series. I'm glad I picked this up, because re-watching it now I liked Twelve Kingdoms more than I did a few years ago.

In case you're not familiar, Yoko is a less-than-ordinary Japanese school girl. Although she's an incredibly nice person, she's a bit of a doormat, and her classmates and even her own parents suspect her of being a punk because of her naturally red hair. She is suddenly (and violently) transported to a crazy fantasy kingdom that resembles rural China (200 years ago) but filled with horrible monsters.

Twelve Kingdoms is more like Guin Saga or Moribito than say, Fushigi Yugi or Inuyasha; in other words, it's pretty dark. I mean yes, a bishonen unicorn-man (kirin, same difference) swears his allegiance to Yoko right away, but then he's kidnapped for the rest of the season. There isn't much comic relief in this show. The (human) characters are all drawn realistically, and the colors are muted compared to other shows.

It turns out Twelve Kingdoms is about government. Sure, it's all swords and schoolgirls at first, but eventually it's about the rule of heaven and the power of kings. The lead characters also go through deep, personal inner struggles, and I appreciate that, but I've always liked the government plot more. (Thematically, Twelve Kingdoms is like Hero Tales.)

On my first watch-through I was annoyed with Yoko's continual crying, so I was glad the producers included the non-novel character Sugimoto. Sugimoto likes to read epic fantasy, and she's thrilled to be transported to sword-and-sorcery land. I'm not sure I like the ending Sugimoto's character comes to in this season, but I can understand why they went there.

The animation is quite good, particularly in episode one, where extra detail has gone into every frame. That level of almost feature-quality work couldn't continue, though, and by episode eleven, the budget has noticeably suffered. On Blu-ray you can see every brushstroke on the lovely painted backgrounds. As with other Blu-rays, I've noticed the character animation was better off at standard definitions.

I liked season two of Twelve Kingdoms better than season one, so I'm looking forward to re-watching part two. That said, if I were the one making these releases, I'd have put the re-cap, episode 14, on the beginning of the second set. Twelve Kingdoms has so much terminology that the re-cap episode is a great refresher.

The BD includes some very thoughtful translator's notes as an extra. The dub is just barely watchable (listen-able?). I can't take Midge Mayes as Yuko, she sounds like she's trying too hard to act. I'd only watch the dub if I was doing something else at the same time and wanted Twelve Kingdoms on in the background, but even then, it might get kind of annoying. At least there is a dub, I suppose.[TOP]

Two Shelf Worthy titles makes for a pretty good week. Then I rented the first disc of Kämpfer

Oh, Kämpfer, you certainly are… a database show I haven't reviewed yet.

In general, I think it would be irresponsible of me as a reviewer to review things based on a checklist, like, “This show had a girl with pig tails and thigh-high socks so I liked it.” With Kämpfer, I'm tempted to do the inverse; “There were no pre-pubescent children and no incest so I didn't hate it!” (At least not on the first disc.)

There are other reasons I didn't hate Kämpfer. For one thing, it's fast-paced. At the end of the first episode I thought I'd watched three episodes, because similar ero-comedies take three times as long to accomplish the same plot points. Indeed, all of these shows seem to have the same plot points.

Ordinary high school boy Natsuru receives a bracelet that turns him into a girl called a Kämpfer, and he's forced to take part in duels with other Kämpfers who happen to be girls at his school. Natsuru has a crush on his friend Kaede, but she, in turn, falls for the girl version of Natsuru and starts asking him for love advice. (Reminding me of the Blur song "Boys and Girls".)

Meanwhile, all the Kämpfers have weird little stuffed animals with their guts hanging out called “Bowel Familiars.” The Bowel Familiars are the only genuinely unique and/or funny aspect of this show. Kämpfer is a comedy, to be sure, with very tongue-in-cheek gags about the very genre it springs from, but I'm not a fan of that particular genre and didn't laugh much.

Kämpfer is surprisingly close to being softcore hentai compared to the average ero-comedy. Equivalent shows are more chaste, but Kämpfer isn't afraid to have some pretty racy scenes. There's a lot of nylon-ed leg-rubbing and wrong-context animated gif potential if you get my drift. The school in the series is divided into an all-boys and all-girls school division, and somehow almost all of the girls are total lesbians, and they actually use the word “lesbian” and are totally aggressive. Fortunately, I didn't find the jokes as off-putting as in Maria Holic.

There are a lot of jokes about the real-life seiyuu in the show, Mamiko Noto, for example. Maybe it's hilarious if you're a seiyuu fan (I'm not). I mean, I'm a fan of anime, but somehow I didn't think the references to other series like Maria Watches Over Us and Code Geass were hilarious. I mean, a character from this show dresses as Zero, is that supposed to be a punchline or a sight gag? Is it supposed to be titillating? Or is cosplay just an anime comedy standard?

I realize I have a bad rap for not liking boob-based comedy, even though I thought shows like Magikano and Sekirei were OK. Perhaps giving Kämpfer a Rental Shelf is like a ringing endorsement on my part. [TOP]

I'll see you guys in two weeks with a look at Yū Yū Hakusho part two on Blu-ray. It may be just conjuncture on my part, but I think Kuwabara is going to blow this case wide open and solve the mystery of which yokai is the strongest.

This week's shelves are from John Leon:

"After 5+ years, my collecting has now "slowed down" as I head off to college, so I decided now is a good time as any to send in my shelves. I started off lazily picking up old Toonami titles I'd watched as a kid, but a couple of years ago after finding the hidden joys of importing, I've more or less found myself unable to afford to buy much domestically or to stop myself from importing anime, music, games, ect. Quite obviously, I'm a fairly large Type-Moon, Keiji Gotoh, and supercell fan, so things like the UBW Movie, the BRS OVA, and a domestic release of Uta?Kata are things I'm excited about!

And of course with all this importing, it was a bit nonsensical to be without a R2 DVD player, so I purchased an import PS2 about a year ago. And for those not willing/unable to decipher the spines of the games, the titles are as follows from left to right: Another Century's Episode 3, Tales of the Abyss, Melty Blood Actress Again, Another Century's Episode, and Fate/Unlimited Codes. As for my music, the collection is more or less random (minus Kalafina\supercell albums) consisting of cheap soundtracks picked up wherever and imported anime singles I just couldn't go without.

Anyway, the highlights of my collection are the 1 of 10 signed Paradox Paradigm posters from AnimeBoston 2009 (if you were there for the panel, the question I had was the one referring to which car T?ko drove in the movie~!) , any import you see, and my signed Limited Edition of Kalafina's first album. *not shown due to my inability to prevent horrific glaring*

Things not shown include ~40 volumes of manga and both FAUST novels which are usually scattered around in places I tend to read.

My collection may not be as vast as those I've seen sent in, but I at least credit myself with having a collection of character and loyalty!"


Nice collection!

Want to show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks!


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