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Shelf Life

Shelf-Life: Clearin' da Shelf for next year's stuff

With only a couple of weeks to go until the end of the year, the anime release calendars are silent. However, I'd like to take this time to talk about a few of the titles that are going to be released in the first part of next year. Some are so good that the next year will be hard to wait for—others will make you wish that this year will drag on for all of eternity. Just so everyone knows, this column will be taking a break next week, so you'd better enjoy this week's column. I'll be back the first weekend of January though, so until then, you'll have to leave with just this issue to satisfy your Shelf-Life needs. But enough of talking, here's some reading material for those boring pre-holiday weekends.

Shelf-Worthy (in a completely random order)

Lupin the 3rd TV: The World's Most Wanted
Pioneer Animation 150 min. 1/? $24.98 01/28/2003

Lupiiiiiiiiiiiin…… sanseiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Without a doubt, Lupin III is a name that will send many an anime fan into the swirling chasms of nostalgia and giddy fanboy/girlishness. The TV series recounts the tales of Lupin and his companions (and capturers) as they run around the world looking for treasures, each other, and good ol' adventures that made Lupin such a likely candidate for its multiple spin-off movies. Granted, the age of this series means that the animation and effects aren't as fluid and flashy as today's fans are accustomed to, but even so, the series packs a huge punch with its comedy and sheer adventure. Approximately twenty-five years after the advent of Lupin, the series is finally going to be released in the US, and boy, am I excited! Laughs, good-times, and the power of the old school are all on deck, and … boy, am I really excited!

Argento Soma Vol. #1
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 02/04/2003

The concept of Argento Soma is rather interesting, though not extremely profound. Playing off the alien-invaders genre, and with references to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, this series is definitely cool. The animation is rather slick, and the action scenes and emotional scenes complement each other well. It has an element of atonement and soul-searching that makes such an action driven series well worth watching and buying.

Chobits Vol. #1: Persocom
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/8 $29.98 03/11/2003

Possibly one of the most talked about shonen series this year, Chobits is an incredibly cute show that follows the adventures of Hideki and his persocom (humanoid computer designed like a young girl) Chii. While the series goes slightly downhill for the first five episodes or so, it gets much better as the story and characters develop. It's well animated, with emotional scenes and ideas that are brought out well through the sweet, simplistic artwork. Combining cuteness, drama, and touches of comedy, Chobits is definitely a series worth adding to your anime shelf.

Noir Vol. #1: Shades of Darkness
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 02/18/2003

I love Noir, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Some people don't like it, but dammit, I think it's fun and exciting. It's “one of those assassin” anime series, surrounded in a moody, and almost eerie atmosphere. Not to mention the music is gorgeous, swaying between beautiful melodies and creepy chanting. The episodes are rather (sometimes painfully) slow, but the element of suspense is played well in the series. Granted, there are plot holes here and there, and scenes thrown in that make people scratch their heads, but there's action, mystery, intrigue, emotion, and the fact that I still like it, and I'm going to make everyone see it, whether they buy it or not. (<Subliminal message>: Buy Noir (or at least rent it or borrow it from a friend), and succumb to the nonsensical idea of a pre-pubescent little girl running around with more firearm skills than 007. </Subliminal>)

RahXephon Vol. #1
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 03/25/2003

Sinister invaders and some human-looking guy that hatches out of an egg. Really, it's a lot cooler than it sounds. RahXephon sports gorgeous animation, beautiful music that's semi-freaky at times, and a storyline that is surprisingly riveting. The series moves at a deliberately slow pace, allowing the characters to fully develop, as well as form complex relationships with one another. There are scenes that are confusing at times, but it is a beautiful series nevertheless, with some absolutely breathtaking artwork. It's extremely well done, and will definitely make a wonderful addition to your anime collection.

Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #1: Faithfully Yours
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 1/5 29.98/34 02/25/2003

Ai Yori Aoshi is definitely one of those feel-good, heartwarming anime series. It tells the tale of two people who realize that they are perfect for each other, even though they were the participants of a cancelled pre-arranged marriage. Although simplistically drawn, and somewhat choppily animated, Ai Yori Aoshi is beautiful and charming at the same time (with the exception that the girl is much too revealing at times to be completely innocent). The beauty rests in the romance and context of the series, and would add a lovely warmth to any romantic fan's collection.

Mahoromatic Vol. #1: Combat Maid
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/? $29.98 01/28/2003

It's a simple story of a boy who finds a pretty maid. She cleans his house and keeps him company, but she only has a limited life-span, so why has she chosen him to be her master? Surprisingly, the stuff like that that's written on the video boxes has absolutely nothing to do with the real plot behind the series. The real story involves alien invaders and the fate of mankind. Throw in comedy, action, drama, seemingly innocent characters with their moments of fan-service, the chance for fanboys to fill their maid fetishes, and you've got Mahoromatic. Who else could pull this off but the folks at Gainax? The series is much more complex, profound, and intriguing than the surface allows to be shown, and only by watching the entire series can the scope of the full series even be fathomed. It's real good.

Fruits Basket vols. 2 +

More Fruits Basket!!!!!! I absolutely love this series with all of my heart for its utter warmth and heartfelt messages. It has comedy, emotion, life-changing messages of deep insight, cheesy overly-dramatic shoujo shots, and really cute characters that change into Zodiac animals. After a while, a pattern is noticed that makes the plot more predictable, but the series remains touching, and the insights that Tohru makes about life make the series meaningful. And the animals are cute. MORE FRUITS BASKET! Buy buy buy!

Video Rental Shelf

Crying Freeman Vol. #1: Portrait of a Killer
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $29.98 03/11/2003

Crying Freeman is based off the manga of the same name, drawn by Ryōichi Ikegami, and despite its bloody violence and sex scenes, it is a beautiful piece of art. Crying Freeman is an assassin who is forced to kill, so he sheds tears after each bad deed is done. He meets a woman whom he is supposed to kill, falls in love, and risks everything he has to ensure that the two of them can stay together. (Don't worry, that's not a plot spoiler. The rest of the series develops from there.) Though definitely not anything that children or less-mature viewers should watch, Crying Freeman is an emotional series that combines action and even sex with sheer drama to pull off a powerful show that will take viewers through a vast array of feelings, whether it's excitement, anger, sadness, or a an almost touching sentiment. This is definitely something that mature anime fans should at least rent, and maybe perhaps add to your shelves later. It has elements that will appeal to many a viewer: drama, romance, action, and for those perverts out there, kinky sex thrown in amidst it all. Tears, blood, and sex—what more does a series need to please?

DNA2 Vol. #1: Metamorphosis
Central Park Media 75 min. 1/4 $29.99 02/11/2003

"I love DNA^2." There, I said it. The original manga by Masakazu Katsura is absolutely beautiful, and the plot is quite original and engrossing (a woman from the future tries to track down the origins of the Mega Playboy whose kids are overpopulating Japan, who turns out to be a wimpy kid named Junta who throws up whenever he's caught in a sexual situation.) It's too bad that when it was made into an anime series, it was changed, and the way it was crammed in and twisted about made it kind of suck. But the series is funny, touching at times, and the complex relationships between all of the characters is fascinating. If it weren't for the fact that the anime series is heavily mediocre and not even halfway up to par to the manga series, I'd give in to my bias and tell everyone to buy the series. But no, I won't do that; instead I'll tell everyone to get their hands on a copy once it hits rental stores, and check it out.

Kimba, the White Lion Box Set 1
The Right Stuf International, Inc 350 min. 1/1 $59.96 02/25/2003

You know how everyone always argues that Disney ripped off Kimba to make the Lion King, even though they've never seen Kimba? Well now they can, in all its glory. So watch it, so people can come up with their own fresh arguments on why the two are or aren't the one and the same.

Perishable Item

Kama Sutra
Kitty Media 45 min. 1/1 $17.95 01/28/2003

I honestly couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this one. As anyone could guess, it's a hentai title based on the Kama Sutra. Guess who did it? Go Nagai. And here I thought he was better than that! And can you believe that they tried to make this one have an actual plot? It blows my mind.

Devil Lady Vol. #1: The Awakening
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 01/07/2003

Hey! This must be the Year of Nagai! And guess what? This series isn't worth your money either! Remember how badly organized Devilman was? This is worse. For those of you who haven't seen Devilman, it's not really important, so don't worry. Inspired by Devilman, Devil Lady is about a fashion model that turns into a… Devil Lady. There are virtually no explanations given for the plot twists in the series, but on the positive side, the length of the series allows the characters more time to develop. Despite that, it's poorly animated, badly written—maybe it's not Go Nagai's year of good US releases after all.

Gate Keepers 21 Vol. #1
Pioneer Animation 75 min. 1/2 $29.98 04/08/2003

Gatekeepers was cute and cheesy enough, with a nice final ending that left nothing more to wish for. But wait, there's more! The saga continues, with the same exciting action sequences that you've seen over, and over, and over again! The problem with this release is that it seems like it's made purely to satisfy Gatekeepers fans who wanted more adventures. With such a short sequel, though, it leaves virtually no time to develop the characters and the motivations of the parties involved. If you haven't seen Gatekeepers, then I suggest watching that before you try out Gate Keepers 21. It's not a masterpiece, but it's much better than this.

Anyway, that's it for this year! Thanks for reading!

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