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Shelf Life
Hard Times and Great Expectations

by Bamboo Dong,
What I've always found interesting is the portrayal of foreign people in anime. For example, the Chinese always seem to be represented as either long-bearded old men who sprout out words of wisdom or whiny little girls who have buns clustered on the sides of their heads. Americans are always portrayed as party-driven people, drunkards, or sports nuts. This shouldn't be surprising to me at all, though. Every form of media has stereotyping of some kind, regardless of its country of origin. Why did I choose to make anime series the target of my musings then? Who knows? Maybe it's because I still think it's funny that ghetto Harlem kids in Marmalade Boy can speak better Japanese than most of the Japanese students I know. Anyway, this week's column is pretty short. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it! In the meantime, I'll be further procrastinating my homework and endlessly New Game Plus-ing my Chrono Trigger.

Shelf Worthy

Noir Vol. #1: Shades of Darkness (Regular & Special Edition)
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $29.98/44 02/18/2003

I've always heard that with Noir, you either love it or hate it. I find this to be absolutely untrue. I just like this series. It has its sprinklings of good points, and it has its share of bad points. To its advantage, it has a beautiful soundtrack, beautiful background artwork, and fluid animation. It also has the makings of a very intriguing plot. Right off the get-go, we learn that there are two women who are somehow tied to one another. One is an assassin for hire; the other is a schoolgirl who can't remember her past. They both seek the answers to questions that will lead to the past whilst fighting all the way (both with themselves and others). Unfortunately, this plot is also the downfall of the series. While a large chunk of the plot is disclosed in the first episode, the story moves at an incredibly slow pace. The first few episodes are entertaining as viewers notice subtle undertones here and symbols there. This enjoyment is ultimately damaged when we realize that these subtle messages are actually obvious plot points that the production staff beats into our heads over and over again. They make sure that every detail of the series is embedded into our heads, and they'll do it a few more times after that just to make sure that we got it the first time. Altogether, this is a good series, but one that may turn tedious rather fast. If you like chick assassin anime series, than this one is right up your alley. If you like multiple-layered plots, this one's for you again. If you're looking for a fast-paced action show though, this might not float your boat as much, but hey, if you buy the special edition, you'll get the artbox and a T-shirt.

Dai-Guard Vol. #4
ADV Films 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 02/18/2003

Dai-Guard is one of those brainless series that can be watched with a blank mind and a smile on your face. It's a series that has just about everything and anything that could keep people occupied: action, comedy, strongly interacting characters, and a plot that is never static. In this volume, the characters have to deal with a new superior, which leads to much head-butting and conflict. Luckily, *insert gasp of surprise here* they manage to pull together and deal with their problems with the help of one another *insert any Jackson 5 song here*. While this series sports an engaging plot, it's rather a no-brainer series. Maybe that's what everyone needs once in awhile.

Rental Shelf

Magical Twilight: The HeX Files
SoftCel Pictures 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 02/18/2003

This amused me. It was like your average cutesy anime series, except with naked women scattered here and there. But it was… semi-tasteful nudity… with a PLOT. Yeah, you read that right. As much as I hate to compare one series with another (since the comparison hardly ever really works), Magical Twilight (do you know how surprised I am that they didn't name it the Sex Files? But then I guess that's way too cliché) reminds me a lot of Ah! My Goddess. Sort of. Not really. Well, okay, there's a guy who is working on passing his exams, and out of nowhere come three women who are trying to pass their exams too (on him!). Anyway, you've got the gentle one who really does want to be good to him, the mischievous one who goes around wreaking havoc. Then there's a witch who practices *gasp* Black Magic who wants to kill him. (Okay, so it's not really like Ah! My Goddess that much, but the characters just remind me of them very much.) As benign and mindless as the story is, this title is actually rather entertaining to watch. It's not raunchily gross or anything, and is in fact almost charming. Either way, if you like softcore hentai, then you might have fun with this. It's so friendly you'll forget they're naked.

Devil Lady Vol. #2: The Becoming
ADV Films 100 min. $2/6 29.98 02/18/2003

Well, this series is turning out better than I expected. The first volume headed in a rather sketchy direction, with the whole “model by day, beast by night, help save humanity” thing. Luckily, this volume strays away from that a bit and concentrates more on Jun, her past, her present, and her innermost emotions and paranoia. Things start to get slightly sketchy again when viewers realize that there's actually a whole race of these Demon Beast things (but she's one of the more human ones!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Is it the sign of further human evolution?!?!?!?!?! Or is it just a sinister plan designed by nature?!?!?!?!?! Either way, the self-searching in these episodes raises the series in my esteem a bit. If you're into the Go Nagai style of gothic horror, then this series will be perfect for you. Granted, his character designs are more or less an acquired taste, but the morose twists in his artwork really make him stand out.

Saber Marionette J to X Vol. #6
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 6/6 $29.98 02/18/2003

I've always thought J to X was one of the funnier seasons of Saber Marionette. The music is cute and friendly, the antics are amusing to sit through a few times, and with the advent of the last volume, the series tones down and presents viewers with some deeper scenes. The marionettes are forced to consider who they really are and accept their lives as just dolls. The last volume of a series always tends to be good, and this is no exception. If you ever liked Saber Marionette, then you'll have to give this at least a rental.

Perishable Item

Trouble Chocolate Vol. #3
Viz Inc. 104 min. 3/5 $24.98 02/18/2003

Have you ever read a book by Dickens called the Pickwick Papers? Or a book by Gaskell called Cranford? They were these popular serialized novels back in the Victorian era, and they pretty much presented the lives of a group of people who ate, had little adventures, ate, slept, bought a carpet, had more adventures, and then drank tea. Trouble Chocolate is much like that, except without any intellectual social messages or anything of the sort. The characters go off and have adventures, eat some food, and do the same thing again. Throw in a crude joke, siphon out more traces of a coherent story line, and there you have it. Trouble Chocolate. Imagine if you took an episode from Ah! My Goddess: Adventures of Mini-Goddess (today is compare to AMG day), stretched it out to 25 minutes, and infused it with stupidity. Altogether, Trouble Chocolate is interesting in the way the characters interact, but this fluctuates with the series so that sometimes all you'll end up with are pointless drivel and cute girls. Trust me; you'd be better off watching Ai Yori Aoshi, or even Magical Twilight while munching on Pocky for that extra chocolate kick.

Great Dangaioh Vol. #2
Viz Inc. 75 min. 2/4 $24.98 02/18/2003

Dangaioh it might be, but great it definitely isn't. Okay, let's see if I can makes this clear to myself. A bunch of bad guys (we'll call them Minion B for the time being) wreak havoc to the world. All the great armies of the world are completely obliterated. Minion B is well on the way to owning the entire planet. However, they happen to stray onto a facility in Japan, home to three pilots/robots. We'll call them the Super Happy Galactic Team Squad or SHGT for short (I almost tabbed with the word Intergalactic, but quickly realized I would run into difficulties with that). Someway, somehow, these three pilots can accomplish what all the armies of the world can't—drive back Minion B. Once this minion is dealt with, out pop even MORE minions, all of whom want to succeed where the previous Earth-destroying minion failed. I'm not quite sure I follow the train of logic that runs through this series. Either way, the action scenes are entertaining, but the story is filled with so many holes it's hard to not be exasperated. If you're desperate for some mad Dangaioh action, go get the original. This isn't worth your time.

Sailor Moon Super S TV Vol. #6
Pioneer Animation 140 min. 6/7 $29.98 02/18/2003

I like the Sailor Moon movies. I can tolerate the first TV series, as well as some of the following ones. I abhor Sailor Moon Super S. To me, this is undoubtedly the worst season of Sailor Moon ever created. Every episode is virtually identical to the point of absurdity, each contains only five minutes of new footage, and each sport the same three music tracks over and over and over again. And don't you think it's about time they changed the opening theme? With all the Sailor Moon series out there to choose from, I implore you to stray away from this one. It's definitely not worth your time, and unless you watch only one episode a week, you'll go insane with the repetition. I beg of you, find something else better to watch this week.

Well, that's all there is for this week. I might as well take this time to recommend some music to you which has been gracing my ears recently. Might I recommend the soundtrack for Hoshi no Koe? It has one of the most relaxing and beautiful soundtracks I've ever heard, and it's definitely high up on my list. Also, even though the series gets shaky, the soundtrack to Ai Yori Aoshi is terrific as well. Hopefully you'll be able to check out a few songs from either soundtrack. You'll see what I mean. Anyway, have a nice week!

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