Shelf Life
Say Yes to A Dress

by Bamboo Dong, Jun 9th 2014

People who know me know that I'm a big sports fan (with the exception of basketball, which I think is senseless [I'd apologize, but I know millions of people have the same opinion about the sports that I like]), so I get really excited when the World Cup comes around. Because for a month, billions of people are watching the same thing, including us soccer-averse Americans, and it's enough to make your cells quiver. This is my first time going to an actual World Cup, too, so I'm about ready to explode.

Are any of you planning on watching any matches? Who are you rooting for?

But first, Shelf Life.

Stepping into Eureka Seven - good night, sleep tight, young lovers is pretty jarring if you're not prepared for it. While the cover features two familiar faces, fated lovebirds Renton Thurston and Eureka, they—as well as the other characters in the movie—only share the same appearances as their Eureka Seven TV series counterparts. The story, and the universe, are actually completely separate from the original series.

There's both good and bad to this. The good part is that you can walk into good night, sleep tight, young lovers completely blind and still have a good time. In fact, that's probably the best scenario, as it's virtually impossible for those who've already seen the series to not compare it with this movie. Because the characters are new, the story is new, the world is new, and even the bad guys are new, it's essentially a standalone property that just pays visual homage to the series. It shares common themes with the series, but zero knowledge of the original is required.

The bad part is that if you're expecting a sequel to the original series, or perhaps some kind of intermediary between Eureka Seven and Eureka Seven: AO, then you'll be sorely disappointed, because it's nothing even remotely close. One can't even say that it's pleasant to see a return of their favorite characters, because appearances aside, the characters don't remotely resemble their original series doppelgangers. Their personalities are different, their backstories are different—hell, even the premise of the Gekko crew is different. And while one can appreciate that the movie shares similar themes with the series—destined love, sacrifice for a greater good and/or your loved ones—it's a little watered down. Compared to the meticulous 50-episode build-up that carefully crafted the relationship between Eureka and Renton, or Holland and Talho, or Dominic and Anemone, good night, sleep tight only has two hours to get its message across. It's there, but it's only a ghost of what Eureka Seven fans have come to appreciate about the series.

If the character relationships weren't so delicately crafted in the series, then perhaps the breezy way they're handled in the movie wouldn't matter so much. But it's like taking the best part of a series and running it through a juicer. The flavor is still there, but the fiber is gone.

That having been said, if one can completely and utterly distance themselves from the series, then the Eureka Seven movie is okay. It's not amazing, but it's not terrible either, and as far as standalone movies go, it has some aspects worth applauding.

For starters, those who absolutely hated Renton in the series might like him a bit better in the movie, since he's given a shot of confidence and anger that isn't really present in the show. There's one particular scene in my mind in which he rushes to Eureka's defense, and delivers a visceral, gut-driven retribution that's pretty satisfying to watch. Likewise, Eureka's personality gets an overhaul as well, though she still retains the same mystique as in the series. Whereas the kids gave her humanity in the series, it's already provided for her in the movie.

But first, let me back up a little bit. In this universe, Eureka and Renton have known each other since there were kids. They play together all the time and hang out with an adorable, pudgy little kodama-Alien-bean sprout hybrid named Nirvash. They call him a larvae (gross), but he eventually becomes the trapar-cruising mech that we've come to know (that happens to make cutesy mukyuu noises). One day, Eureka is kidnapped by the military, and we don't see her again until eight years later, when Renton has joined the Gekko crew. While on assignment, he rescues a "secret item" from a base being pummeled by the EIZO (this world's version of Coralians), only to discover that it's Eureka. In the events that follow, we learn the truth about Eureka, Gekkostate, and the current war being waged on the planet.

In a sense, it's almost Eureka Seven Lite, thematically. And whether or not you'll appreciate it just really depends on how much the story grips you. It's a reasonable piece of entertainment, to be sure, but it just doesn't have the same emotional punch that comes with 20ish hours of character development.

One of my gripes is that the script is just not good (though in fairness, Eureka Seven wasn't exactly Shakespeare either). Some of the lines are just awkward and clunky, like Renton's attempts to cheer up Eureka inside the Nirvash with a cheesy, "Look, no hands!" That's great, Renton. There's also a really bizarre dialogue interchange at the beginning of the movie where movie-world Dominic shows Renton and Eureka a snow moon flower, and Eureka says, "What kind of plant is that?" Dominic replies, "It's not a plant, it's a snow moon flower." I'm no botanist, but I'm pretty sure flowers are plants. In any case, this particular plant is plant-like enough that it even blooms and bears seeds, so if it's indeed not a plant, then the script needs to reflect this in a rational manner. Later on, one of the characters refers to Eureka as "a girl-shaped ___," which given the context of the comment... it's not incorrect, but surely we can think of other descriptors than "girl-shaped."

In any case, I think good night, sleep tight, young lovers is great for those new to the series. It's even good for people who just really love alternate universe stories. Taken completely as a standalone property, it's an adequate movie with a reasonably entertaining story and fun action scenes. But at the end of the day, if you're asking yourself if it's worth buying, or, "Does this add to my Eureka Seven collection?" Not really. Certainly not in the same way that the Evangelion movies add to the series, or that Brotherhood adds to Fullmetal Alchemist. But sure, if you just want to see two childhood friends battle some alien life forms, then it's fine.[TOP]

Next up on my list, Samurai Bride, a follow-up to Samurai Girls.

I have to be upfront about this. Samurai Bride is fun, but it's also very stupid. That's not a bad thing, but it is the reality of the situation. And to the series' credit, it makes zero claims that it's trying to be otherwise. That is perhaps the biggest reason why the series is as successfully entertaining as it, even though… yes, it's pretty ridiculous.

Taking place after the events of Samurai Girls, the characters find themselves completely broke after the "Leiman Shock," a worldwide financial crisis triggered by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. *cough* In order to keep the dojo afloat, the girls rope Muneakira into their scheme of turning the dojo into a maid café, as though the series really needed an excuse to ram more butts and boobs in viewers' faces. (Incidentally, the maid uniforms are actually more conservative than their everyday outfits, especially monkey girl Sasuke, who literally just has some fur tendrils on her boobs, and a penchant for always having the tip of her tail strategically placed over her hoohah.) Soon after, they're approached by a group of Dark Samurai, who insist on battling Jubei. However, her powers have been locked away, leaving the characters no choice but to try and prolong the impending battle. Eventually, an even bigger threat is revealed, but not before we get plenty of chances to see boobs, butt, butts, and boobs.

In fact, if you're into fanservice, then Samurai Bride (and of course, Samurai Girls) is absolutely the series for you. There is loads upon loads of fanservice, ranging from meaty camel toes to round, voluptuous butts, to basically just gelatinous mountains of breasts. If you lined up all the butt/boob/camel toe frames end to end, it'd probably go to the moon. It's good stuff for those who like such things, and the girls make it plenty easy, with costumes that seem inconvenient for everyday living. I don't even like wearing strapless dresses; I can't imagine how some of the characters deal with open jackets (sans inner clothing) that always just magically obscure their nips.

For those who are curious, the Sentai release is indeed uncensored, so you can see all of the nipples in their un-ink splotched glory. Not that the series was exactly virginal with the splotches—one scene that killed me a little was when the gang was trying to track down a panty thief, and one of the girls was offered a (panty-clad) crotch to smell, because "her sense of smell is even better than a dog's." Oh, okay. As long as there's a valid reason.

Charmingly, the series' setting in alternate history Great Japan (which is still run by the Tokugawa shogunate) goes a long way in making sure the series never takes itself seriously for even a second, and it's honestly really fun. It's almost anachronistic (if you can use that word for fictional worlds), in that things look vaguely mid-19th century-ish, but the girls have iPads and Heinz ketchup.

Sadly, while the show's bright colors and fun atmosphere add a lot of visual oomph, the animation does tend to cut corners during the action scenes. Rather than choreographed fight scenes, the battles are mostly made up of action poses and stills, implying motion but never really showing it. It's a clever way to save money, but it's also very conspicuous and makes the fights a little tedious. Not even the artistic usage of grayscale or ink splotches can make up for lack of real animation.

I do have to mention that although the series has a harem setup, in that there are half a dozen girls and only one dude, it's actually kind of refreshing to see the girls going after him for mostly self-serving purposes. There are some moments where the girls fall over themselves trying to woo Muneakira, but it's largely to harness his ability to transform them into Master Samurai—and in this season, the Samurai Bride. Not that the characters are actually speaking for themselves, mind you, but it is a nice change of pace from your stereotypical harem romcom.

I will have to say, though, that once the actual main story arc kicks in later in the series, it's actually pretty decent. Gone are the maid café battles, and picking on individual characters, and drawing on omelet rice. Instead, we end up with a story of frenemies, and the circumstances that bring them there. The seed is planted fairly early on—one of the dojo-café's best customer is a jovial Dark Samurai who can't get enough of the food and moe love spells—but as the series develops, we see that the designation between good and bad is anything but black and white, and even the antagonists are a little conflicted on where they've ended up. It's not Macbeth or anything, but it's surprisingly more complex than what the series would have you initially believe.

There's no sense in pretending that Samurai Bride is anything more than what it is—a goofy, silly, sort of action-oriented fanservice series, and that's just fine for the audience it's trying to appeal to. Will it appeal to those who are looking for things outside of butts? Maybe. But fanservice aside, it's not really strong enough to stand on its own two legs. The story has too much fluff, and the maid café angle—while cute and occasionally funny—feels a little forced. The latter half of the series has some good moments, but it's not helped by the money-skimping action scenes, and it doesn't make up for some of the filler earlier on. For a fanservice show, though, it's not too bad.[TOP]

Last up is another streaming series, One Week Friends, which you can currently find on Crunchyroll.

We've seen it all before—the shy, slightly strange high school boy; the aloof, but whip-smart girl... their eventual friendship, and the tell-tale signs of a budding romance. You don't really know them, but you want them to be happy. You want them to discover the joys of friendship, and the tingle of new love.

And yet with One Week Friends, something just... doesn't seem right. Something is off. The girl is as sweet as could be, while the boy has his heart in the right place. But something tickles the back of your head, saying, "there's something not right going on."

But let me back up a bit.

The premise of One Week Friends is a little hokey, perhaps, but reasonably believable, given all the strange tales we've heard throughout the years of psychology cases and the brain's mysteries. Kaori is the class loner who never talks to people, never tries to make friends, and disappears at lunch time to eat by herself. Meanwhile, Yuuki is your everyday high school boy. He has friends, but not many, and he's not great at school. One day, he takes it upon himself to befriend Kaori, whom he finds on the school rooftop. Over the week, the two become friends, and he learns that Kaori's actually a really sweet girl. On the last day, though, she tells him that come Monday, she'll no longer remember him or their interactions. Every Sunday night, her memories of her friends disappear.

It's enough to make you sniffle a bit, especially because Yuuki refuses to give up, and asks her week after week to be her friend once more.

All of that is sweet, but as I mentioned, there's something... not right about the series, and it's the one thing that's really preventing me from wholly embracing the series. I'm not sure how much of it is intentional, but by a few episodes in, we begin to see that Yuuki is increasingly jealous and possessive of Kaori. His actions towards Kaori are still kind, but his words say otherwise. He gets agitated when Kaori befriends others, male or female (but especially male). It comes off almost like a savior complex, as though he should be her only friend because he was the one who broke her out of her shell. Though maybe he just suffers from Nice Guy Syndrome. It's a dynamic that makes the series increasingly uncomfortable to watch, because even though you root for Kaori and smile every time she makes friends, Yuuki is always in the background, waiting to pee on her and mark his territory.

Ignoring Yuuki for a second, though, the Kaori aspect of the story is precious. She comes off as a little too naive, but considering her unspoken trauma, it's mostly forgiven. But again, some of that naivete sometimes translates a little poorly in the show, casting her less like a lonely girl in need of friendship and understanding, and more like a blank canvas waiting to gather stray paint.

Damnably, all of this culminates in a mid-season conflict that's 10% sad, but 90% lazy storytelling. Without spoiling the scenario too much, it seems mostly like a cheap way to frustrate viewers who have been rooting for the lopsided lovebirds since episode one. If it's meant to make viewers concerned, it does the opposite. My exact reaction was to sigh an expletive at my laptop, that sort of rhymed with, "Oh, duck soup."

Irritating story developments aside, and creepy Yuuki aside, the series is exceedingly pleasant to look at. Everything about the series' visuals scream, "bittersweet slice of life!" from the hazy, unfocused backgrounds, to the character designs, which are blank and impossibly small-mouthed. It looks strange to see screen shots, but in the context of the series, it works well. Blushes are more prominent, sidelong glances are more pronounced... when Kaori turns her evil eye on Yuuki, you instantly feel bad for him. It's a pleasant aesthetic, and perfect for the type of story that's unfolding.

That being said… is the series worth your time? Overall, I'd still say yes. As I've mentioned, there are aspects of the series that I think are off-putting, but overall, it's a sweet story, and watching Kaori grow as a person is worth the price of admission. At the very least, watch the first episode, which may actually be better than the entire rest of the series combined.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll talk your ear off about sports anime, so brace yourselves.

Credibility6 decided to do things a little differently and send in a video of his shelves. Alright, I'll take it.

"My anime collection speaks for itself, it consumes my life and my money. Worth it. lol"

I got a little excited watching the video, especially after seeing some of my favorite series on there, like Le Chevalier D'Eon, SaiKano, and Yawara Next time you go on vacation, just let me know if you need a house sitter...

Want to show off your shelves? Send your JPGs (or YouTube videos, I guess!) to [email protected] Thanks!


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