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Shelf Life
Xs and Ys

by Bamboo Dong,
I recently saw what I think is one of the best anime movies ever made: Memories, presented by Katsuhiro Ōtomo. Numerous people have recommended the film to me before, but I had always pushed it off. Last weekend, I finally saw it and let me tell you, I have seen the light. Memories, in my opinion, is the ultimate epitome of human life and what it represents. Divided into three vignettes (Magnetic Rose, Stink Bomb, and Cannon Fodder), Memories showcases a view of the pointlessness and almost futility of life. Through its scenes, it's able to portray the various aspects of human life, such as blind devotion to one's goals, or the feeble struggle of humanity to accomplish all that it can within the limited world in which it is restrained. I could wax on and on about this movie for the rest of my life, but I wouldn't to bore everyone to tears as well as reveal too much about the movie. I definitely cannot wait for this movie to be licensed and released, and can only hope that it will happen soon. If you haven't seen this amazing film, try to get your hands on it. Naturally, I'm heavily biased towards this movie out of my personal love for it, but for all its worth, I think it's an absolute masterpiece. I only regret not listening to my friends when they pressured me time and time again to watch it earlier. With this bit of gushing out of the way, I present to you, this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection
ADV Films 60 min. 1/1 $29.98 03/25/2003

If there is one major reason to watch the new Kenshin OVAs, it's the art. The artistry and painstakingly fluid animation is extremely well done in this two episode release and is rivaled only by the first OVA series. Set fifteen years after the end of the television series, viewers are treated to a glimpse at Kenshin's son, as well as the struggles that Kenshin must face with Kaoru in the troubles that haunt his life. The first episode is largely a recap of events that happened in the first television arc, but with the new dialogue as well as the beautiful new art, viewers are able to get another glimpse of the scenes, especially the fight with Jin-e. With the new music combined, it really makes it one of the best recaps I have ever seen in my life. The second episode deals more with the present-tense, and is able to pack a rather emotional punch in it. Altogether, this is a must-see for any die-hard fan of Rurouni Kenshin. While not as impactful as the first OVAs were, it's still done extremely well and shouldn't be passed up. If you're any kind of Kenshin fan at all, you owe it to yourself to at least give this a chance.

Fruits Basket Vol. #3: Puddles of Memories
Funimation Productions 144 min. 3/4 $39.95 03/25/2003

It is my honest opinion that Fruits Basket is one of the best series to be released in quite some time. Sweet, honest, cute, amusing, and embedded with interesting messages on friendship and hope, this series embodies all that a “feel-good” series should represent. It is a phenomenal series, and I cannot possibly recommend it enough for those of you that are into this type of semi-light-hearted, semi-angsty shoujo. In the second to last volume of the series, viewers are able to peek further into Tohru's personal emotions, and also how the people interact with her to return the love and caring she has always blindly extended to those around her. Just as the first two volumes do, these episodes also show immense talent in being able to fully develop the natures of the rapidly growing cast evenly and fairly. This allows each character to become truly integrated into the series, rather than just act as a passing side acquaintance. It is the immense level of characterization and the way that the themes of friendship and acceptance in the series are handled that truly make Fruits Basket a viewing experience that will not be easily forgotten. If shoujo appeals to you at all, you can't afford to not watch this series. (Or, if the double negative suits your style, you can't not afford to never not watch this series.)

RahXephon Vol. #1 ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $29.98
RahXephon Vol. #1 W/Box ADV Films 125 min. 1/1 $44.98 03/25/2003

Some people have told me that RahXephon is nothing but an Evangelion rip-off. Some people have told me it's one of the most complex and well crafted robot series out this year. After finally watching it, I'm inclined to pitch my camp with the latter group. RahXephon is simply brilliant, if a bit confusing for awhile if the viewer is caught off guard. Set in the future, mankind's numbers are drastically smaller than they are now, and they're in a bit of a war. The hero of the story is guided to a mystical sanctuary where a humanoid weapon hatches from an egg. As it turns out, he is the only one that can pilot it, and he must fight to defend his world and his ideals (one can see where people would draw the Eva similarity). As the episodes move beyond the initial exposition gathering scenes, viewers are left with an elaborate story line that is able to both flawlessly bring together the fascinatingly complex details of the series as well as serve as an expose of humanity and youth in the face of war. There is a rather abrupt shift in setting and flow in the middle of the volume that might make viewers blink a few times, but it manages to resolve itself beautifully in time to really catch one's respect in the tactful way it's done. Along with the extremely well-done story line, the art and animation for RahXephon are done exceptionally well, and it indeed seems as though no expense was spared in producing this series. This is definitely something that can't be missed.

X Vol. #4
Pioneer Animation 75 min. 4/8 $29.98 03/25/2003

CLAMP's dark fantasy continues to impress as the series hits the bisecting line. Carrying on with the morose and starkly beautiful artwork, combined with the eerie music that rounds out the creepy atmosphere of the scenes, the fourth volume continues to give X fans a wonderful viewing experience that only serves to make the series better. In the three episodes that grace this disc, viewers are able to learn more about Yuzuriha, her dog Inuki, and the events surrounding her life. More is also revealed about Fuma and Kamui, including the appearance of the second Divine Sword. As the timeline progresses, the story is definitely taking a more cohesive appearance, as everything is pulling together and reaching towards an exciting end goal. If you've ever seen any of the X episodes before this, you'll definitely want to keep it up and gobble this disc down with the rest of them.

Berserk Vol. #5
Media Blasters 100 min. 5/6 $29.95 03/25/2003

Wee-ha, this series is fun! Embodying all that a good action series should, Berserk is filled to the max with engrossing plot, dynamic characters with interesting relationships (remind me to never name my kid Guts), and good ol' fighting entertainment. In this volume, Griffith is mere steps away from victory, but fragments of his past must be contended with first. The pacing of this series is terrific, and with one more volume to go, everything is stockpiling up to a great finish. Berserk is just one of those series that knows how to tell a story, and mighty well at that. If you haven't been following the series up until now, you'd better start. It's definitely one intensely interesting series, and you wouldn't want to be the only kid left that hasn't seen it, would you?

Mahoromatic Vol. #2: Haunting Past
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 2/4 $29.98 03/25/2003

Many argue that Mahoromatic is just an excuse for senseless fanservice. I agree with the fanservice part, but I still think there's plenty of qualities that boost up the series. The humor in the first volume of this series is upheld throughout these episodes, which make this series one that is definitely fun to watch. On the other hand, a large part of what constitutes the humor is based around raunchy jokes and blatant sexual advances. These episodes further feature Suguru's teacher pushing herself and her disproportioned body onto him, which in my opinion is both annoying and absolutely disgusting. With these scenes removed, though, what's left is cute and mostly innocent humor that gives the series a light-hearted touch. What's especially nice about this volume is the information on the characters' pasts that are finally revealed to the viewer. When this expositional background is shown, the story is heavily strengthened and the real plot of the show is finally unearthed. The series definitely takes a positive upbeat in this volume, transforming it from a pointless maids-and-breasts show to one that has an interesting drive and a rather suspenseful plot. If you enjoyed the first volume of this series, then there is no possible way you could pass up this one. Besides, the ending sequence is so cute, who wouldn't want to watch it again?

Rental Shelf

Magic Knights Rayearth II TV Vol. #1-#7
Media Blasters 100-125 min. #/7 $29.95 03/25/2003

The second season of the highly popular shoujo series Magic Knights Rayearth is now available on individual DVD. Previously released only in the second DVD collection, fans who wish to collect only a few episodes out of the series can now do so. After the three girls returned to Tokyo, they met for a reunion and expressed their desires to visit Cephiro once again. Somehow, their wish is granted, but when they return to the once beautiful land, they learn that it is dilapidated and war-torn. In order to restore the land to what it once was, the girls must find a new Pillar to support the country—all the while fighting some sinister foes and some ridiculous wannabe foes. While the second season is good for the chance to see the characters again, as well as for a few well-placed laughs now and again, I was definitely not as impressed with it as I was with the first season. The animation is rather shoddy, and the art is a bit off, considering the characters' body proportions fluctuate throughout the entire series. In fact, there are scenes where a character who was only a head shorter than another one will reappear in the next scene approaching only the other person's waist. Also, one of the scenes from the first season is used an exorbitant amount of times, which gets rather tiresome after awhile. In whole, this season was just not as good as its predecessor. If you're a Rayearth fan, I still recommend seeing it, but if you've never been exposed to the series before, then I definitely recommend the first season highly over this one.

Kimba, the White Lion Box Set 1 350 min. 1/1 $59.96 03/25/2003
Kimba, the White Lion Vol. #1/2
The Right Stuf International, Inc 175 min. 1/2/4 $19.95 03/25/2003

As anime fans have come to realize over the years, The Right Stuf International and AnimEigo share a wonderful hobby—delaying releases. It's usually through no fault of theirs, but the fact remains that the two companies have a penchant for rescheduling their releases. Unfortunately, Kimba had to suffer the same fate, but no worries, he's back and stronger than ever. (Excuse me while I rip off my own words from a previous column): 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.

Space Pirate Mito Vol. #2
Media Blasters 75 min. 2/4 $24.95 03/25/2003

Um… well, there's no good way to explain this series without you giving me weirder looks than you probably already do. Okay, let's see if we can do this. Aoi is a fifteen year old boy whose father is deceased and whose mother is a model. She's supposed to be some tall, gorgeous woman who's off at a photo shoot somewhere. And then we meet the mom. Turns out, she's a minute, prepubescent alien girl who's one of the most infamous pirates in space. How does this work? Well, I'm glad you asked. Turns out, she has different “suits” that she wears, that give her different appearances. Anyway, there's a woman out to get her named Mutsuki. Naturally, she dates the pirate's son to get to her. Antics are thrown everywhere and while the series doesn't really have a highly established point, it's packed with energy and hyperactivity that makes it rather fun to watch. This is definitely a pretty creative and original show and it'll be interesting to see where it heads, if anywhere at all. If you're one for outrageous action/comedy/entertainment/other, this might be a fun show to watch if you ever need to get things off your mind.

Can Can Bunny: Lucky 7
SoftCel Pictures 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 03/25/2003

Can Can Bunny (a title which I have yet to understand) is now being collected into two DVDs. While hentai series are often known for their plot-less sex, this is not the case with Can Can Bunny. It's definitely one of those hentai series that not only have a plot, but also emotion, which make it more like a regular series except with naked people. Kenta is a lonely guy (as many anime characters tend to be, for some reason) who wishes that one day, he'll be able to make love to lots and lots of women. *poof!* Out of nowhere, a goddess pops out and grants his wish, magically attracting seven women to him so he can, uh, get to know them a bit better. These characters actually turn out to be rather colorful, so it's rather interesting just to see who the next woman will turn out to be. Interesting things develop when viewers decipher the goddesses' motivations for doing what she did, as well as what her sister has to do with the situation. All around, it's a pretty fun little series.

Dragon Ball Z TV Box Set 7: Perfect Cell
Funimation Productions $54.95 03/25/2003

I must say, I'm growing quite fond of Funimation. No longer are they the “evil” company that people used to complain about. Seriously, did you ever think that they would consistently release Dragon Ball Z bilingual and uncut? I never thought it would happen, and look at them now! This box set (episodes 138-150) further the story line between Tien and two of the Androids who, in my opinion, are some of the coolest characters in DBZ. I know people have always claimed that DBZ took too long to tell a story (I've been guilty of charging that in the past), but with so many episodes in one box, plenty gets accomplished. Really, if you like DBZ and the Perfect Cell saga is your cup of tea, you'll get a mighty big kick out of this set.

Genma Wars Vol. #1: Divine Twins
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/4 $29.95 03/25/2003

I had never even before heard of this before until just recently. I was quite relieved to find out that it bore no relation to another Genma Wars movie (also known as Harmageddon, not to be mixed with the Korean animated movie Harmageddon). The story is rather old fashioned, dealing with primogeniture, banished sons, and family ties, and is somewhat interesting. The character design seems a bit old, but for the most part, I can't really see where they're going with this. It's more mediocre than anything else, so I'd give it a rental before buying it.

Perishable Item

Ys Vol. #2
Media Blasters 90 min. 2/2 $24.95 03/25/2003

As someone who has never played the RPG game of the same name, Ys has absolutely no appeal to me. I don't have a thing against anime series that have an RPG flavor to them, mind you, but Ys just didn't settle in with me properly. The story plays out much like an RPG would: Adol Christen is on a quest for magical books and relics and what not in the land of Esteria, now called Ys. He runs into people who tell him to talk to other people and somewhere along the way he ends up solving mini-quest after mini-quest to obtain his final goal. Overall, it's very much just like playing an RPG, except without having to press any buttons and not having to heal your characters every few minutes. If you've played the game, then this might be good for some lookin' back action, but if not, then there's very little here that sets it apart from the other RPG-based anime series to make it stand out.

Fist of the North Star Vol. #1/2
Manga Entertainment 2/5 $24.95 03/25/2003

Try as I might, I just can't like this series. I know the manga and TV series were really popular in Japan, and plenty of people will hiss at me for not liking the show, but I suppose I'll just have to deal with the criticism. Frankly, I don't think this show has anything to offer other than senseless violence and a waste of red paint. I've never been fond of the post-nuclear/post-apocalyptic setting where biker gangs are either fighting against berserker robots, vicious anarchist street gangs, or mutants. In this case, it's the last one that our hero is pitted against. He's supposed to be in charge of an ultra-powerful martial arts technique that lets him run around and completely beat the crap out of anyone who stands in the way of his ideals. Apparently people stand in his way all the time, because the series is stuffed to the max with aimless violence. In addition to the unspectacular story, the animation is pretty outdated, and boy, does it look it. There's just nothing here that I can really appreciate, outside from it being a good series for those people who watch anime just for the blood and gore. Want a good action series with good art and an engaging plot? Move aside, there's nothing to see here.

Slave Doll (Kowaremono)
Kitty Media 90 min. 1/1 $29.95 03/25/2003

I believe in giving all hentai a fair shake, but this was definitely my cup of tea, or coffee, or anything. I've never been a huge fan of hentai android maids (I know what you're going to say, but Mahoromatic's not hentai—aha!), nor have a been a big supporter of androids/robots/girls/catgirls/anything that have to humiliate themselves over and over again in front of large crowds of people on the wishes of perverted masters. I know some people adore such things, but I've never enjoyed watching characters being trapped in such horrible situations with people jeering at them. This title involves an Andromaid (you guessed it – part android, part maid) who is sent to collect someone's superior sperm. She ends up having to fret over his feelings and sort out hers, etc, etc. The story itself doesn't seem bad at all. Standard, yes, but workable. Somehow though (probably with my personal bias thrown in), the story is too disjointed and awkward to really milk out the full potential of the story. The art is pretty enough, and the animation is pretty good, but this forced humiliation thing, the awkward excuses for sexual contact, and the poorly paced story line? Not my thing.

Hello Kitty's Paradise: Learn With Love
ADV Films 90 min. 4/4 $14.98 03/25/2003

One of my friends and colleagues once told me he thought that some of the Hello Kitty covers seemed pornographic. When I asked him why, he replied that they looked too innocent. This was definitely something I had never heard before, and to this day, I can't help scrutinize each Hello Kitty cover for any traces of anything sketchy. I haven't seen anything even remotely close yet. Regardless of what he said, Hello Kitty will always remain to me something cute, friendly, and fit for any girl's housing decorations. Like the rest of the Hello Kitty volumes, this one follows the formula of having one episode show a lesson of some sort (sharing, manners, etc), finished off by an episode of some cute adventure; this pattern is then repeated. I will never deny that this kind of stuff is great for kids, but at the same time, I'll insist that unless you're a kid or have one, this probably isn't something you'd really want to buy for yourself. Sure, it's cute and friendly, but I'm sure we've all moved beyond this certain learning stage in our lives. Love! Hello Kitty? Buy a mirror set.

That's it for this week! In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my Spring Break, so while I'm lounging around in two feet of snow, enjoy your anime!

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