Shelf Life

by Bamboo Dong,
I think I'm a lot lazier now than I used to be in high school. Back in those days, I thought nothing of having homework for every class every night. I remained unphased about having my entire days filled with classes and random practice sessions for either a musical instrument or the school swim team. I had no problem with spending up to six hours a day on a variety of homework assignments. Now that I'm in college, I realize that I'm growing steadily lazier and lazier as each day passes. I balk at having homework assigned to me once a week. My friends and I even go through the routine of “I can't believe I have to go to class for FOUR HOURS today!” It's absolutely ludicrous. On any given day, I have about eight hours to do homework, yet I still find myself complaining about the workload and the lack of time I have to finish it. Is it because I'm surrounded by so many distractions now? Or is it because I'm growing steadily more stupid as the days progress? I'll opt for the latter. Anyway, on to this week's column.

Shelf Worthy

Argentosoma Vol. #1
Bandai Entertainment 1/6 $29.98/34 02/04/2003

Argentosoma is one of the coolest anime series I've seen this year. The animation is slick, the music is beautiful, and the plot is grabbing. The story plays off the Frankenstein idea, and weaves in its own twists and side stories as the story progresses. It has the action sequences that accompany any alien-invaders genre, but it's filled with a level of soul searching and angst that makes the series worth watching. The one downside is that the plot tends to get a tad confusing. By a tad confusing, I meant that if you just watch the first volume, you'll have no idea what the hell is really going on, and why it's happening. Despite the mess of events that happen, however, the story is still gripping enough to make someone want to watch the next volume, whether to figure out what happens next, or just to see if the story ever answers its own questions. To make up for it, the character designs and art are beautiful as well, making this series one of the best crafted ones released this year.

Rental Shelf

Wild Arms Vol. #1 (also w/box)
ADV Films 125 min. 1/5 $29.98/39 02/04/2003

This series is oddly fascinating for me. Based on a video game that was based on a manga by Wakako Oba, it's actually pretty interesting. Well, the story kicks off with two women who want to go find treasure. When they do find it, it ends up being a 5-year old floating in the middle of a room. Thing is, he's a twenty-five year old stuck in a kid's body. And he's got a really cool gun. So? Well, there are these über-rare, super-powerful guns in the world called ARMS, and they're capable of doing obscene amounts of damage (think Luminaire or Ultima in the RPG world). Anyway, the main character goes on a mission to try to figure out why he looks like he's five, and the secret behind the ARMS. The art is rather simplistic, but it works well. The story is rather interesting and fast-paced as well, which makes for easy, enjoyable viewing. The animation's not bad, and the humor in the series is funny enough to keep viewers laughing without having to comment on any potential lameness. If you liked the game (or the manga), then you should definitely check this out. It's not half bad.

Arjuna Vol. #3
Bandai Entertainment 75 min. 3/4 $29.98 02/04/2003

On the upside, it's not as Green Peace-ey as it used to be. This is a good thing, since the preaching got really annoying really incredibly fast. As the series nears its end, the story is prepping for the finale, and it's definitely worth watching for. Jun is getting used to her powers, so there won't be any more exasperating moments of her floundering about uselessly and getting on viewers' nerves. Less Save-the-Earth preaching and a more useful lead character? Hell, that just made Arjuna a million times better. Even though viewers may be unused to seeing the antagonist of a story as the waste that's destroying the Earth's ecosystems (outside of some Ghibli stuff), this unique storyline provides for interesting attention grabbing that makes viewers want to watch the next episode. By now, the dialogue has cleared up, and there are less glaring contradictions and confusion than in the preceding volumes. The art is beautiful, the animation is slick, the blend of artistic mediums is surprisingly calming—go watch this or I'll eat you.

Betterman Vol. #5
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 5/6 $29.98 02/04/2003

I'm so lost. Ever since the first DVD, I've gotten more and more lost every time I watch Betterman. Whenever you think the next volume would clear stuff up, they throw more plot twists at you, until you have no idea what's going on anymore. Last volume, I thought to myself, hey, it's getting better, and it's approaching the end, so it'll clear up. This time, I watch the show, and BAM new species. WHAT?! Luckily, by the end of the fourth episode, things are back in order, and all the chaos that's racked up in the earlier episodes is somewhat whittled down to just a few confusing ones. What's particularly nice about Betterman is the sheer eeriness of the mood. The art is dark and morose, and the music and sound effects heighten the creepy factor of the series. While on the surface, the characters live out their everyday lives, the undertone of the series, not to mention the content of the main story, is uncanny to the max. In fact, the atmosphere of the series is very much like Boogiepop Phantom with its sinister and dark aspects. And it's creepy! EEK!

Inu Yasha Vol. #03
Viz Inc. 78 min. 3/? $24.95 02/04/2003

I'll be honest with you. I don't like Inu-Yasha as much as everyone else seems to, and was immediately turned off by the characters in the first episode. Luckily, by this far into the story, things are getting more interesting, and the character's aren't getting on my nerves as much (especially Kagame, who always managed to aggravate me with her childish actions). I'll give it this, though: Inu-Yasha is my favorite Takahashi series so far, as she manages to mix action, the occasional disturbing scene, and her trademark comedy very well. Then again, you don't need me to tell you that, since most of you have already seen it on TV. Well, if you enjoyed this series on TV, then you might get a kick out of watching it in its original Japanese (though I can tell you that their voices are equally annoying in Japanese). Be aware though: if you plan on collecting this series, it's damned long and inadvertently quite an expensive investment, so you'd better make sure you really want to buy it before you set out to do so. And if you're thinking of just buying a few discs from the series, well, what are you waiting for? Get your ass out to the store and rent this thing and check it out.

Ranma Forever Vol. #5
Viz Inc. 75 min. 5/8 $24.95 02/04/2003

Apparently Viz is still in the process of unloading all their Ranma stuff onto DVD, and is finally almost done with the SEVENTH season. Are there seriously people that are collecting the entire series? After awhile, it's just not funny anymore. Anyway, in this volume, there's a legend that says that if the person who eats certain cherry-blossom rice cakes gets the mark of sakura on his forehead, then he will be with you forever (in a romantic, non-stalking, non-creepy way), until the end of time, and all that sap. Blah, blah, blah, wacky Ranma-esque hijinks ensue, and thus ends the episode. Rinse and repeat. Here's what I think though; unless you're a die-hard Ranma fan, then it would be far wiser to rent this thing first, and if you really like it, then buy it. Ranma's too damned long to invest in without lots of thought put into it beforehand.

Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Box #2
Bandai Entertainment 300 min. 2/4 $44.98 02/04/2003

It is my earnest while opinion that G-Gundam is probably one of the suckiest Gundam series made. It just doesn't have that same old politically centered, piloting talent driven fun anymore. This is one of those series that is fun to watch for the fighting, but impossible to swallow for the story. Gundam tournaments and stuff? GAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Damn the Alternate Century! Whatever happened to the hale and hearty political-dissenters-versus-the-current-government-of-the-time stories that trademarked all the series? Granted, this is more creative than their usual stories, but it's like disgracing the good names of all the Gundams that have ever flown through space. For some reason, this series did surprisingly well in Japan, probably for its brainless entertainment, so you might like this. Whatever suits you. Just be glad the boxset's cheap if you decide to buy this.

G-Taste Vol. #01: A Taste of Honey
SoftCel Pictures 75 min. 1/? $29.98 02/04/2003

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where the hell are they going with this?!?! This is one of the most random hentai titles I've ever seen! It makes no bloody sense whatsoever, and the situations the characters are caught in are so completely bizarre and unfeasible that this thing is just funny. The first episode contains virtually no nudity and features a girl that has a…pole fetish. You know, like with poles and railings and hand rails and stuff. The second one has a girl whose occupation is a—guess. A m-m-m—let's say it together, shall we? A MAID. Except this is unlike any maid thing I've ever seen. I have really no idea what the manga artist was thinking when this was made. There is virtually no discernable storyline at all, but it doesn't fall into your “every excuse possible to have sex” bucket either. It's more like a mess of random (so far, at least) plots thrown together that uses sex just so they could lump it into a specific genre. Ooh, but there's an extra on the disc that falls just short of half an hour that tells how one of the episodes was made. It's pretty cool. But hey, just to cover my ass here: for mature audiences only.

Dragonball Z Movie #07: Super Android 13!
Funimation Productions 62 min. $24.95 02/04/2003

It already boggles me enough how long the series is. Then there's an impossibly long string of movies to deal with. Luckily, this one's actually interesting. Yeah, there's actually a plot!!! Well, most of the DBZ movies do tend to have a plot. That's why they're better to watch than the series. But anyway, if you're a fan of DBZ, have fun with this one. (Be careful, though. At the beginning, you have to spend time watching girls shop. Horror awaits.)

Perishable Item

Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Vol. #4
Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Vol. #5
Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Vol. #6
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 4/5/6/12 $19.98 02/04/2003

We already know that Bandai is going to release this thing in boxsets, right? And we all know that if you try to watch any Gundam series out of order it completely screws with your head and makes no sense whatsoever, right? Wait for the box.

Melty Lancer Vol. #1: Alpha
Bandai Entertainment 75 min. 1/2 $29.98 02/04/2003

Well, this was scheduled to come out earlier this month, but faced some difficulties. Luckily, this just gives me another chance to talk about this pleasant series again. (I know that I put it into the 2nd category the first time, but after watching it again, I realized it needed a reassessment.)

Buy this and face my scorn for the rest of your life. Melty Lancer is one of the single-most pointless series to come out this year. Three phrases sum it up: rampant fanservice, a wannabe space opera, and narcissistic girls (well, not so much the girls as the camera's infatuation with them). Melty Lancer is like all those good space opera series that have become so familiar to anime fans, like Crest of the Stars and what not. That is, it would be a good space opera if it could stay focused on the story. Instead, what could have had the makings of a fun series is turned into excuse after excuse for camera time for the girls, and storytelling that falls short of its potential. Yeah, yeah, I know it's based on a popular video game, but wait, what does that ever prove? Well hell, if you want to stare at chicks, then this might be the thing for you. Scorn. The animation is nice though. I'll give it that. That's the only reason that I debated putting it into a different category. Scorn. Oh, and the music is cute.

And thus ends this week's issue of Shelf Life. Like the pictures? Think I should put them in all of them? It sure does make it more colorful. Anyway, have fun with this week's releases, and enjoy winter while you can!

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