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Shelf Life
Signing on the line

by Bamboo Dong,
When I turned eighteen, a whole world of new benefits was opened up to me. Had I been conducive to smoking, I'd have the legal prowess to purchase cigarettes. I can also participate in human-testing scientific experiments if I want, or hook up my web cam and abandon all my pride to unseen people online. Sadly, of all these flashy new things I could do in my spare time, there's only one thing that pleases me. I can now sign my own forms. Since being away at college, I found out that it was a hassle to have to send back forms back and forth to collect my parents' signatures. Now life seems so much simpler. What does this have to do with anime, you ask? Well, buying a DVD is a lot like either signing a form or having your parents do it for you. When you sign a form, you take full responsibility of whatever is written on that slip of paper—in essence, whatever you just did is final. It's the same with buying a DVD. Sure, you can always sell it off on eBay if you don't like it, but you'll get a poor return on it and you've pretty much screwed yourself over. When your parents signed a form for you, they took responsibility for your actions, so you could do whatever it was you wanted to do, and if what you chose to do was bad, your parents would step back in and revoke their permission. This is kind of like renting a DVD—you can do what you want with the DVD, but if you do something bad to it or the rental contract, the people at the store step in and take away your privileges. The moral of the story was lost in the incredibly poor analogy, but here for all your preview needs is this week's Shelf Life. Sign those permission slips wisely.

Shelf Worthy

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

I'm quite thrown on how I feel about this series. I love the first three episodes and regard them as a few of the best episodes I've seen in a long time. A college student named Kaoru meets his childhood friend Aoi one day, only to find out that she was destined to be his bride. The arranged marriage was broken off, but Aoi still loves him and is determined to pursue the man that she's loved all her life. As their relationship grows, other forces start acting between them. Each has conflicts within their own family, each has a code of honor that must be retained—all are woven into the abrupt beginnings of a love story that is deeper and more intricate than normally seen in an anime series. The interaction between the two lead characters is touching and is to be cherished—and then it turns into crap. The following episodes revert into a classic harem, fan-service infused series that seems to serve no purpose other than to provide cheap entertainment. Honestly, you could bring in the characters from Love Hina, switch them around a bit, take out some of the slapstick, and no one would ever notice the difference. This is very disappointing to me as a viewer. I had very high expectations for the series, but the intelligence of the series dropped sharply near the end of the disc. On the other hand, the art is gorgeous, and the opening theme song, “Towa no Hana,” is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard. Despite the heavy fall that the story took, I can't deny my undying love for the beginning of the series, and I still retain those childish hopes that maybe, just maybe, the series will get better. After all, the entire series is worth wading through just to see the intricate relationship grow between the two main characters. Thank goodness even bad series can be redeemed. If you want a cute romance, this has the makings of one hidden inside it. If you want breasts and random nakedness, this too can be found here. If you're after something along the lines of multiple women living in the same house as one male, this can also be discovered here. Aren't you lucky?

FLCL Vol. #2
Synch-Point 60 min. 2/3 $29.99 02/25/2003

I won't lie to you and pretend that I actually understand every subtle message that this series attempts to convey. If anyone does, then you have my full respect. What I do know about this series is that the art is stylish and unique, the animation is fluid, the soundtrack is fascinating, the scenes are funny, and the story is intriguing. Technical aspects aside, this series is really in a class of its own. It presents classic themes such as adolescence and jealousy and false hopes in such a completely different and original manner that what remains is solid storytelling hidden in folds of absurdity and skewed humor. It takes a few viewings to really unearth all the heavily layered messages and subtleties, but with the concentrated amount of story in such a short series, there's always something new to see. FLCL is, by far, one of the most well-done series to be released this year, and the second volume is no exception. Even if it doesn't make sense the first time around, you'll want to watch it over and over again until it does. Gainax really struck gold with this one.

Excel Saga Vol. #5
ADV Films 100 min. 5/6 $29.98 02/25/2003

I will never stop recommending Excel Saga until the day I die, and this volume just reaffirms my love for the series. It's virtually useless to try and discuss the “plot” of this volume, but there are plenty of other good traits that are worth noting. One of the things that can't be neglected is the amount of extras on this disc, proving once and again why DVD technology is one of the coolest things in the world. There are a few Easter Eggs on the disc, as well as regular extras like an interview with the Japanese production staff of Puni Puni Poemi, as well as one with the infamous Rikdo. ADV even included an Excel Saga board game with the DVD—this release is packed with goodies. The best part, obviously, is the episodes which are among the funniest I've seen in the past few volumes. They manage to poke fun at a few genres of anime (again, but much more successfully), as well as serve up some good ol' slapstick comedy, Excel style. What I really think sets Excel Saga slapstick apart from others like Love Hina is the variety of ways that it can be dealt. Rather than just a punch and a glimmer in the sky, few tricks are repeated in Excel Saga, which is what makes the series so refreshing to watch. As with FLCL, the more you watch it, the more things you'll catch, giving it the chance to be the most viewed item on your shelf.

Rental Shelf

Reign: The Obsession of Alexander Vol. #1
TOKYOPOP 120 min. 1/4 29.95 02/25/2003

Crazy… Remember Alexander the Great from history class? Infuse the story with a little science fiction to spice it up, throw on some ridiculously big lips, and there you go—instant Reign. Actually, the series deserves much more credit than that, but the concept is relatively the same. What's fascinating about this series is the way that each episode develops the story, as well as the artistic aspects of it. Rather than jumping straight into the series, the first disc is largely expository. The storytelling is great though, so the pacing works out just fine, especially with the complex and detailed plot. A lot of big names contributed to this production including Peter Chung of Aeon Flux fame, as well as the notorious Rintarō. Even if the scrawny, beef-jerky-esque character designs are awkward to gaze at, the animation is extremely well done. All around, this is an interesting series and if you don't see this on the Cartoon Network, then definitely pick this up from a local rental store. And while you're looking at the cover, imagine how easy it would be for Alexander to cosplay as an Eva. All he'd need would be a pair of tights.

Guyver Vol. #1 / Guyver Vol. #2
Manga Entertainment 160 min. 1/2/? $29.98 02/25/2003

Manga said that they were going to start releasing their back catalogue on DVD, and they sure were right. Reaching back into the days of The Guyver, this release is now available to fans again and it's just as entertaining now as it was back then. The premise of the story follows a high school student (no surprise there) who stumbles across a mysterious object (no surprise there) that covers him up with tentacles (no surprise there) and turns him into The Guyver!!!!! (AAGH! Surprise!) Honestly, even though the plot is rather weak, this series is still pretty fun to watch. For any fan of 80s-style action anime, you'll love this series. There's blood, guts, angst, more blood, and more violence everywhere, but it makes the series flow at a fast, brain-dead pace. For a series made in the late 80s, the animation is comparatively crap, but luckily, the series requires absolutely no human neural activity whatsoever, so the first seems rather frivolous. If you like gore, blood, and mindless violence, this series is perfect for you. At the very least, go rent this title because it may just be the kind of low-IQ thing that keeps the world afloat.

Cosmowarrior Zero Vol. #4
Media Blasters 75 min. 4/4 $24.95 02/25/2003

Matsumoto fans, rejoice. The last volume of Cosmowarrior Zero is descended upon us and it's action-packed, cameo-injected fun for everyone. Matsumoto fans that don't know about this series—it's never too late to start watching. People who don't even know who he is: he's the guy who did stuff like Galaxy Express, Harlock Saga, and to name a more mainstream example, he's the dude that did the Daft Punk videos. Set in the Matsumoto space-time continuum (wherever that might exactly be), Cosmo Warrior is one of those space adventure series that make you remember why you thought the guy was cool in the first place. The action is there, the plot development is there, and there are even appearances from all his other series like Harlock and Emeraldas! The story moves a little too rapidly to fully enjoy, which is a shame since it would have been better had it been fleshed out more. Other than that, this volume has all the good stuff that space epics end with—final battles, ultimate weapons, teamwork and camaraderie. If you think you might be interested, give it a try! For those of you who think you can figure out whether or not you'll like the series from reading the back of the box—don't bother. Without having seen the previous three volumes, the description is absolutely undecipherable. The name-dropping is impossible to wade through, but hey, the three DVDs aren't, so go watch them.

Idol Project Vol. #1: Starland Festival
Media Blasters 60 min. 1/2 $19.95 02/25/2003

This is one of the funniest, stupidest things I've ever seen in my life. The story centers around the glamorous lives of idols (acting, singing, etc) who rule the world, and whom everyone wants to be. One of the lead characters is a girl named Yuri, who is the president of the “idol world.” She also has six “Excellent Idols” who will be her successors. In comes Mimu, a high school girl who wants to be an idol. Something goes awry, however, and she teams up with the Excellent Idols to fight evil—using the only skills they know, like modeling contests and singing competitions and what not. Yes, the story really is that ridiculous. It's almost inconceivable how anyone would come up with such a random excuse for an OVA series, but oddly enough, it's pretty entertaining. The music is great (what else would you expect from idols?), the hijinks and scenarios that the girls find themselves in are hilarious (in a shameful kind of way), and the characters are really bloody cute. This definitely falls under the category of weird and random, so if you're in the mood for nonsensical and cute, check this out.

Kimba, the White Lion Box Set 1
The Right Stuf International, Inc 350 min. 1/1 $59.96 02/25/2003
Kimba, the White Lion Vol. #1 / Vol. #2
The Right Stuf International, Inc 175 min. 1/2/4 $19.95 02/25/2003

For all those fans out there who have screamed that Disney ripped off Kimba the White Lion to make the Lion King, here's your chance to show your support for the “original.” The Right Stuf is finally releasing this on DVD, and though it's dubbed only, it's still fun to watch for that old time kick (by old, I mean 1960s old). Showcasing a young lion named Kimba, viewers are led through cute and cuddly adventures to learn about survival, friendship, social reform, consumerism, economics, and all those other deeply ingrained political and moral themes that releases disguised as children's series love to imbed within them. The boxset features the first 26 episodes, which is an amazing deal. While this is a good deal, not that many people are willing to dish out that much money on a dubbed-only series. It's a little disappointing that the original Japanese track couldn't be procured, but that happens. My suggestion? Give the first DVD a rental and see what you make of it. If it looks like something you might enjoy, watch more. It's that simple.

Dragon Ball: Red Ribbon Army
Funimation Productions $39.95 02/25/2003

Hey! Lookit! Androids! For any and all fans of Dragon Ball Z, this is great opportunity to see the origins of the Androids. In this 17 episode set, Goku goes off on his little ball-collecting ordeal. Along the way, he encounters… the Red Ribbon ARMY!!!!!! While it's not that suspenseful, it's still fun to watch. I mean, come on—if you thought the androids in DBZ were cool (they weren't, in my opinion), you might as well check out the origin of those little suckers.

Hyper Police Vol. #4
Image Entertainment 100 min. 4/6 $19.98 02/25/2003

As the series gets more serious, Hyper Police also gets more enjoyable. Whereas the frivolous adventures of the characters were rather pointless at times, the story is beginning to grow again. With the more morose mood of these episodes also comes interesting revelations by the characters, such as the political aspects of the job that they do, as well as the power of the camaraderie that binds them together. Towards the end of the disc, however, the atmosphere lightens back up, depositing viewers back into the Hyper Police that characterized the earlier parts of the series. All in all, if you enjoyed the earlier volumes of this series, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this, as it's one of the better discs in the series. The anthropomorphic characteristics of the characters still freak me out a bit, but the story is improving, and that's what counts.

Perishable Item

Hello Kitty's Paradise: Share and Care
ADV Films 90 min. 3/4 14.98 02/25/2003

Are you one of those little girls that have Hello Kitty makeup kits and screams “KAWAIIIIIIIIIIII” at every thing that passes with fur? No? Then don't get this. Like most of the Hello Kitty releases, it's strictly for the kids, and unless you have any kids that dig this show, it's not really worth your time. Yes, yes, I know Sanrio's cute and everyone loves all the characters but honestly, Hello Kitty works much better as housing décor, not a series. If you're dead set on buying this, I can't stop you, but remember—I will laugh at you no matter where you are.

Babel II Vol. #3
Media Blasters 75 min. 3/4 $29.98 02/25/2003

This is the most blasé thing I've seen all month. It's like every Marvel comic ever made, thrown into the blender, and tabbed with goofy characters jumping out at you from every DVD cover. I can't deny the brain-free interest of watching characters beating each other up for pointless reasons and having people being infected with sporadic viruses and radioactive matter, but if that's the only thing it has going for it, then that's a bad thing. But WAIT!!! One of his former enemies is teaming up with him to fight evil!!!!!! It's so hard to explain exactly why this series is as bad as it is. It's not as simple as just saying that it's action oriented with no character development, though that's also true. It's just… mediocre, to the max. Other shows at least have something to boost them up, whether it's the animation or the soundtrack or something. This thing is just below average in everything. You might get a kick out of it, but there are so many better things you could buy with your money.

And thus ends this week's Shelf Life. I hope you've figured out my analogy by now, but if not, don't worry. It doesn't fully make sense in my head either. Hey, before you know it, we'll be in March, so enjoy the snow while you can.

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