Shelf Life
Clone Wars

by Bamboo Dong, Aug 25th 2014

These days, I've been playing a ludicrous amount of Love Live!: School Idol Festival, the mobile rhythm and card game that features the girls of Love Live!: School Idol Project. I didn't think I'd ever get suckered into a mobile game hard enough that I'd be That Person hunched over in a coffee shop trying to nab some extra event points, but apparently now I am. I regret nothing.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

There's an indescribable joy in hearing "Catch You Catch Me" coming from a TV again. It's a jolt of nostalgia, especially for those of us who've let the march of time make us forget those leisurely days of watching Card Captor Sakura near the beginning of the century. Those who are my age (hovering at either side of the 30 cusp) remember the Card Captor days as the years before we had bills, taxes, and debt (and for some, kids).

Of course, plenty of Card Captor Sakura fans may still have the old Pioneer tapes or the Geneon discs. But for the fans who either never finished collecting the series, or have lost the volumes over the years, or who just never got around to buying it, the NIS America set is hard to beat. All 70 episodes are packaged in a sturdy, nine-disc case, alongside a hardcover, full-color episode guide, all stuffed inside a thick cardboard box that is mercifully standard DVD height. I typically wouldn't get so excited about an episode guide, but for a nostalgia release like Card Captor Sakura, it's perfect. It allows you to pick and choose which episodes you want to watch, should you not be in a marathoning mood, and it pairs well with the discs, which are not only numbered, but are labeled to show which episodes they contain. It's the perfect mid-afternoon brain-snack, and one that will keep you entertained for quite some time.

For those who are new to the series, though, it is advisable to watch it in order from start to end. What's always been one of my favorite aspects of the series is that even though it follows a monster-of-the-week formula (in this case, a Clow Card of the week), it has an overarching story that is both emotionally fulfilling (the last episode still makes me sniffle a bit, when Sakura is recounting all of her memories with Xiaolang), and also a surprisingly normal tale of a little girl trying to make sense of her life and her feelings. Likewise, the themes of friendship that saturate the series are amongst some of anime's best, and it's hard not to appreciate every character's open honesty with those around them.

It's remarkable how entertaining the series is, when one considers how incredibly simple the premise is. One day, 10-year-old Sakura Kinomoto opens a mysterious book in her father's (enviable) library, inadvertently scattering magical "Clow Cards" into the world. They were previously guarded by the guardian beast Kerberos (who in the series largely takes on the form of a cuddly, winged stuffed toy), but escaped when he was snoozing, and now Sakura must get them back. Along with the help of her best friend Tomoyo, who also makes all of her magical girl outfits; transfer student Xiaolong; and some other major players along the way, she must use the powers of the cards to recapture the escaped cards before they wreak too much havoc on the world.

Despite its simplicity, though, the episodes are creative and fun, displaying not only imagination in the design and execution of the cards themselves, but also the way each one is captured. Even though the series is 70 episodes long, it's hard to ever get bored, especially when the over-arching storyline is just as interesting as each card capture. Cosplayers will also enjoy each end-of-the-episode moment with Kero, which points out various costume details and provides fun facts about their construction.

Of all the classic magical girl shows out there, Card Captor Sakura is one of the best, and this set absolutely does it justice. The colors are vibrant and pretty, and even the inclusion of the episode guide makes it worth double-dipping, just for the convenience of being able to hop around the episodes. If you were ever a fan of the series, this is a must-buy.[TOP]

Next up on my list was probably the opposite of what you'd want to show your kids, though maybe they'd be inspired to create humanity's next generation of figure-hugging textiles.

For a hint of what Senran Kagura is like, all you need to know is that it was made by the creators of Ikki Tousen and Freezing, which means that there's lots of exploding clothes, lots of panty shots, and more tits than a bird sanctuary. The upside is that you also know exactly what you're getting, so it has a pretty straightforward "If you like [this], then you'll also like this" selling point. The "this" in the previous sentence, by the way, refers to boobs.

Senran Kagura is sort of about ninjas, but it's mostly about boobs, which is just fine. For the most part, the series is entertaining enough that the action, plot, and fanservice go hand-in-hand (or actually, boob-in-hand; there's a lot of groping) without any element dragging down the viewing experience too much. There are some execution missteps, and some questionable implications of its premise, but overall, it's easy to consume. The end result is a show that's a little insipid and shallow, but amusing enough that the copious fanservice can be enjoyed for laughs.

The series is sort of based on the long-running Senran Kagura game and manga franchise, and stars a girl named Asuka. She attends the ninja school Hanzo Academy, which only accepts girls with clean records, meaning they haven't killed anyone, or gotten themselves into anything rough. Which actually is kind of BS, because when we meet the antagonists from the rival academy, which accepts any and all girls who want to be ninjas, we realize that those girls have been through some tough times, often without any fault of their own. Hanzo is for the privileged kids; everyone else has to go through the back door.

This is fine and good for a fictional series that's mostly focused on boobs, but it makes it exceedingly difficult to wade through later scenes in which the antagonists reveal their backstories and the struggles they've been through. It's kind of hard to get behind the series at that point, or really root against the "bad" guys, though I guess that's part of the point. As much as one might want to sympathize with the villains, though, the writing doesn't make it easy—sad as their stories might be, it's hard to focus on anything when their ridiculous breasts are straining to escape from their flimsy clothes, like helium-filled balloons trapped in a net.

Blessedly, even though the characters within Senran Kagura are taking their situations seriously, the series obviously is not. It's focused on having a good time, and that usually involves the careful animation of breasts being juggled by invisible hands. Fight scenes generally involve some kind of de-clothing or shirt-ripping—some characters don't even bother with traditional clothing, opting instead for strange fabric creations that only stay in place through anime magic and the will of god. It's also a given that almost every episode, some kind of long object will be rammed between a character's breasts, be it a scroll, a fish, or some other kind of creature. The girls also eat a lot of dick-shaped foods, which is a joke the writers never get sick of using.

It sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm really not. Senran Kagura falls into a very specific genre of action anime that celebrates the marriage of fanservice and hand-to-hand combat, and is well aware of how absurd it is. Whether you greet the parade of breasts with groans or cheers, it's still a watchable show (though it's perhaps best watched with a group of drinking-age friends for a good chuckle). If anything, it's the half-assed writing that drags it down, especially when it tries too late to inject any kind of depth into the characters.

Still, boobs.[TOP]

Last on my list was a title that I've been looking forward to ever since it was simulcasting, but finally got a chance to watch this past week.

As far as the A Certain Magical Index franchise goes, I'm in the camp that vastly prefers A Certain Scientific Railgun, largely because I love Mikoto, and I love the more streamlined narrative focus that the series has. Thus, I was pretty excited to finally watch A Certain Scientific Railgun S, which I had avoided during its simulcast, as I was still wading my way through Index at the time.

I had a bit of a déjà vu when I first started watching the third episode of Railgun S because I could've sworn I had watched some of it before. I realized half an episode in that the story being told in this series was actually an expansion of the Sisters arc, which was touched upon in the Index anime adaptation. If you don't like that arc, then I guess you'll be bummed out with these episodes, but I was pretty stoked, considering it's one of my favorite stories in the series. Not to mention, more Mikoto.

Literally more, really. Someone is mass-producing Mikoto clones in an attempt to create a Level 6 esper, and it's up to Mikoto to stop them. What was only a small taste in Index, though, is a fully fleshed-out and carefully constructed arc in this series, covering not only Mikoto's actions as she learns about the clones and deals with them, but also the backstory of the project and the origin of the clones. It's dark and sinister, and the series absolutely does it justice. Those not content to just watch a parade of Mikotos for 12 episodes don't have much to worry about—there are plenty of other players who come in for a fight, and the resulting action scenes don't disappoint.

The same reasons why I prefer Railgun over Index are the same reasons why I really enjoyed Railgun S. I like being able to spend more time with individual characters, and because of the narrower focus of this series, it gives viewers a better chance to really know and understand Mikoto. This season, in particular, is fantastic on that front, and delves into the character with much more depth than was ever afforded in the previous two franchise installations. Not only do we learn a little more about where Mikoto comes from, but watching her face powerful adversaries (and a super creepy threat) also allows us to see more of her serious side. As far as character development goes, this is one of the best executed in the franchise so far, and it almost makes me wish that other arcs would get their own expanded retellings.

If you like series to be a little on the dark and gruesome side, then Railgun S will appeal to you. While I think it's valuable for viewers to have first seen Index for the context and some of the characters, I don't think it's absolutely critical. As for Mikoto fans, this is a must.[TOP]

This week's shelves are from Ali07, who wrote in the following:

"I've been collecting anime for about 2 years, only really started getting into manga within the last 12 months. My initial exposure to anime began with some typical series - DBZ, Pokémon, Digimon, Naruto and probably some others that I can't think of right now. I honestly don't know why I just decided to jump into the anime hobby...maybe I was just looking for something to do on that day. The first anime series I bought after getting into the hobby was Elemental Gelade.

Megaman ZX was the first manga I bought, on a whim. Fairy Tail was the first long anime series I played catch up on when I got into anime, which then transitioned to it becoming the first ongoing manga series I started to collect. Since joining ANN to take an active part in discussion, as I was a long time article reader and comments lurker, I've added manga series on top of what I was already collecting and have a list of series to buy...I'm pretty sure the list of series is in the double digits now...

Onto the photos. Some things need a little explaining. I was cleaning my room at the time, so you'll notice that stuff on my shelves have changed in a couple of photos, that was due to me moving some stuff around...nothing sinister! I also noticed that not all my Haruhi novels were on the shelf at the time. So, I took another photo with all the novels side by side.

As for why you see a giant Captain America standing around and a Scarlet Spider in another photo...I also collect comics, so I've got some comic characters hanging around too. Some may not recognise these, but the books to the right of the 5 Centimeters per Second manga are the Deltora Quest series.

And yeah, I'm not massive on BDs, as I watch most of my stuff on my laptop.

So, there you have it. Not a massive collection, but it's continually growing. 2015 is going to see me adding 4 new manga series, while I'll probably still be going through getting other manga and anime series...I have a list to go through of stuff I've got to buy..."

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I have to commend you for your taste in movies, as some of them are absolutely fantastic. More people need to watch 50/50. (I also like your manga shelves.)

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


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