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Shelf Life
Bringing out the goods

by Bamboo Dong,
Over Spring Break, my beloved laptop suffered an internal mishap that pained me grievously. Apparently, one or more of the fans no longer works, meaning that the computer overheats within half an hour and shuts down. While it has been in the Center of Intensive Care for Machines and Computational Mechanics (a secret organization that disguises itself with strange names like “Best Buy” and “Comp USA”), I've been making use of the most beautiful, sexiest, more luxurious laptop ever made in the history of mankind. (By beautiful and sexy, we all know that I mean to say that my temporary laptop looks so shameful that I was embarrassed to take it out of its case at the airport security checkpoint and considered passing it off an old Beta deck.) Behold, an IBM Thinkpad (yes, much worse exists, which I'm sorry to hear), running a Pentium processor with Windows 98. Not a bad thing, really. As I was using the machine, I began to realize how much I missed Windows 98. Sure, there were its occasional down moments like the infamous Blue Screen, but it's just so simplistic. It doesn't go out of its way to be user-friendly, it just is. When something crashes, it tells you that an illegal operation has occurred, and shuts down your program without trying to be nice about it. This is what I like about old anime series and old movies. It was all back in the day when no one could say that any series was a rip-off of another series or say that an idea was overdone. What you see is what you get. True, there will always be exceptions to everything, but something about seeing the origins of a subculture fascinate me. Yeah, there are downsides like bad animation or bad sound editing, but those are few and far between. Take out the trivialities and what are you left with? You're left with one solid system that can't be tampered with unless you burn all the masters and lose half the footage—or in the previous case, take out your BIOS with a hammer to the motherboard.

Shelf Worthy

Lupin the 3rd TV Vol. #02: Love Heist
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 2/? $24.98 04/08/2003

Who's cooler than Lupin and his fellow screen mates? No one, that's who. Get ready for some more butt-kicking adventures of the old school variety as Pioneer dishes out the second installment of Lupin III to hordes of anxiously awaiting fans. Some people may argue that Lupin follows the same pattern episode after episode, but while that may be true, it cannot be denied that each one is creative and exciting enough to make each episode a fresh adventure. It's analogous to a fancy Japanese toilet that can perform 14 different functions in 12 different languages as opposed to, say, a urinal for which you can only do one thing with. In this collection of fun adventures, Lupin gets to go to a wide assortment of places and help out people like horse racers and old gnarly men in a great steal of six episodes. Honestly, you can't go better than Lupin this week. Yeah, yeah, the animation is old, but let me tell you people, this is story telling at one of its finest. You'd be surprised how many different ways a toilet can say hello.

Excel Saga Vol. #6
ADV Films 125 min. 6/6 $29.98 04/08/2003

Excel Saga has managed to keep me laughing and clutching my gut up through the sixth DVD—an impressive feat indeed. With its hysterical antics, anime references, and jabs at modern popular culture (some not so subtle and some barely noticeable), this show is just damned fun. In the last volume of the series, viewers finally get to see ACROSS go out there for some heavy ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN action! The excitement is chaotic and you'll watch as the Puchuu thingies try to annihilate civilization, and Nabeshin going for the punch—BAM!—and Excel coming in from the lower left for a hearty POW! and the city laid to waste with a loud THUD with the Great Will suffering and screaming “HELP ME, HELP ME” and Pedro busting out his stuff with a CRASH, KABOOM, with the other dude with the thing running in and screaming “AAAAAAGGHH!” and then triple the excitement with a “GAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” and—
*cough* I digress. If I can make an ass of myself that easily over a mere 10 minutes of footage, then I can promise you that the last volume to Excel brings the perfect ending to the series. Watch it or I'll sick a Puchuu on you.

Noir Vol. #2: The Hit List
ADV Films 100 min. 2/7 $29.99 04/08/2003

I rather like this system of releasing DVDs months apart from one another. While Noir is an admittedly cool series (for justifications I'll indulge you with later, if you'll be so kind to wait around), it gets a tad weighty after awhile. The symbolism and flashbacks and deep profound remarks are superlative, but just in case you didn't get it the first time, they do it again and again and again a few more times after that just to make sure you caught it. And then they do it again just for fun. This, my friends, is why I can only love Noir once every couple of months. I am a fickle fan. This way, Noir is fresh every time I watch it and I'm awestruck once again by the complex way they handle the story, as well as the drop-dead gorgeous soundtrack, provided graciously by the hand of the infamous Yuki Kajiura. The animation is nice, and by the time anyone can get sick of getting bludgeoned over the head with a smarmy literary stick, the DVD's over, and you're left with a pleasant taste of c'est chic in your mouth. In this progressively intriguing series, volume two continue to flush out the answers behind their linkage while operating under their NOIR codename. The pacing may be a bit slow, but at least it's well done.

Hellsing Box Set
Pioneer Animation 320 min. 1/1 $124.98 04/08/2003

This is for all you people out there who are too lazy to buy each individual disc of Hellsing with the artbox. Yeah, I'm on to you, considering you have no other excuse given the fact that buying each disc by itself with the artbox costs the same amount of money (or less, depending on where you shop) as buying the boxset. Hellsing is a highly entertaining series, and though it gets unraveled near the end, it's still a boatload of a frolicsome bonanza. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the series, it features a young female police officer by the name of Victoria. Well, she gets involved in an incident and after a string of events, comes into contact with the Hellsing Organization, a group of people that hunt down vampiral miscreants. The head hunter guy is a vampire by the name of Alucard, whom a variety of web-based resources like to call Arucard (for the same reason that Eric Clapton should henceforth be called Eric Crapton). Right off the bat, we know that this is one of those vampire shows that people like to obsess over, but at least with Hellsing, it's exciting and well done enough to make it reasonable. The series gives off an air that's a mix of dark gothic and a light jazzy feel that's exemplified by the music. In fact, the series is epitomized by the intro, a groovy, bluesy song with unintelligible lyrics named “A World Without Logos.” The animation starts off nice, but like the series, gets crappy near the end, but it doesn't diminish the value of the first half of the series at all. Honestly, you really don't have a lot to lose with Hellsing.

Tokyo Babylon
Central Park Media 100 min. 1/1 $19.99 04/08/2003

Long time fans of CLAMP will remember when Tokyo Babylon was first released in the US. They'll also remember the first time they experienced the artwork that made CLAMP famous—the luscious backgrounds, the beautiful (though somewhat odd) character design, the painstaking attention to detail, and all the other characteristics that made such a show the stunning visual experience it is. Subaru Sumeragi is introduced to the audience as a psychic investigator who is in pursuit of a murderer that also possesses supernatural powers. The story contained in the two part release is nothing complex, nor is it ingenious, but the sheer appeal of it can once against be attributed to the gorgeous visual effects. The dark atmosphere fits the series perfectly, and altogether, it's just something that's hard to forget once you've seen it. It's definitely violent for a shoujo series, but the experience is stunning. This is definitely something you'll want in your collection if you dare to call yourself any kind of CLAMP fan.

Rental Shelf

Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII
Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII Special Edition
Pioneer Animation 105 min. 1/1 $24.98/$59.98 04/08/2003

Patlabor WXIII is a great movie, Patlabor has great animation, Patlabor is fun to watch—Patlabor is not Patlabor. The movie has about as much to do with all the Patlabor incarnations as planting Fiona's lousy forest has to do with Chrono Trigger—it's just one big side story. On the positive side, the old Patlabor cast shows up midway through the movie which is sure to please all the fans who wanted to see more of their favorite characters. Even further on the positive side is the way the new characters are presented, as they are built subtly and steadily until they're about as familiar as the Labor guys—well, almost. Sadly, I can't say the plot is wildly exhilarating. Genetically altered monsters? Eh, maybe it'll rock your boat harder than it rocked mine. Interestingly, while the regular movie DVD just contains the movie, the Special Edition also contains a collection of Mini-Pato, short parodies written by none other than the beloved Mamoru Oshii. Is that reasoning enough to buy the Special Edition? Weighing the difference between Mini-Pato and genetically engineered monsters, I'd say hell yes, but give it a quick rental first.

Chance Pop Session Vol. #3
ADV Films 100 min. 3/3 $29.98 04/08/2003

In the final volume of Chance Pop Session, R3 gets the chance to perform their hit single “Pure Blue” in a competition against Reika. Meanwhile, more things are revealed about the families, the relationships of the girls with one another, and bits and pieces of the past that give the series an interesting jolt. With the last episodes, the series is anything but suspenseful, as everyone already knows what's going to happen—it's the matter of how it's going to happen that's interesting. Altogether, it's a nice ending for a nice show. It's happy, sugary, and teaches little girls lessons about life. Sadly, the moral lessons that can be garnered through the series are heavily countered by the increasingly inane “How to Be a Pop Star” booklets, with make-up tips, clothing tips, and all those things that make teen magazines turn teenage girls into twats. The one thing that prevents me from being disgusted by what they're trying to teach girls in the booklet is the hilarious knowledge that a huge chunk of the people buying the DVD is actually post-adolescent men. While the story remains largely fresh and entertaining, the music in the series, which was originally a large selling point for me, is getting extremely tedious and tiresome. It's apparent that only four songs were written for the series, so viewers have the bothersome chore of listening to the same damned thing over and over again. I'm rather glad they ended the series on a high note before they had the chance to drag out the music any longer. If you want a feel good show, Chance Pop Session's your ticket this week.

DNA² Vol. #2: Turbulence
Central Park Media 75 min. 2/4 $29.99 04/08/2003

Watching Junta's character transform into the almighty Mega-Playboy and get crowds of girls drawn to him makes me realize two things: 1. Masakazu Katsura is a storytelling master who is able to spin up wildly unique stories. 2. He has a great sense of humor. 3. He is extremely skilled at drawing panties. Unfortunately, the last bit, along with the more intricate plot and gorgeous artwork, is dulled down quite a bit in the series. Nevertheless, the story that remains is amusing enough to carry on the flame. With the series almost half over, viewers are introduced to the powers of the Mega-Playboy. At this point in the series, it doesn't serve as a crucial plot point yet. Rather, it's more or less a chance to indulge in more fanservice, awkward situations, and humor. The characters are interesting to watch, however, so the episodes on this disc build up viewer interest rather well. Granted, the animation is pretty shoddy too, but that's what you get for trying to tamper with Katsura's beautiful manga. To top it off, though, viewers get more excuses to listen to the opening and ending themes by L'Arc~en~Ciel and Sharan Q (respectively), which are arguably two of the greatest songs ever written. Okay, fine, so there's not a whole lot of appeal to this series other than a highly creative plot, fun times, and an enjoyable cast of characters. Wait—what more could you possibly want? Go rent this thing.

Rune Soldier Vol. #1: Enter the Klutz
ADV Films 100 min. 1/6 $29.98 04/08/2003

As much as I hate to say a certain series feels like a combination of X and Y series, I feel like I can't avoid it here. Rune Solider, from what I can gather right now, feels like Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and Sorceror Hunters thrown in a pot (minus all the girl leering) and poked with a quality stick. It definitely carries that element of fantasy-style RPG feeling, making it feel like a well-crafted game without all the elixirs and bastard swords. The premise of the series introduces a blundering male named Louie who joins up with a team of three females in want of an adventure party. Being the utter klutz he is, he's constantly getting in a flurry of troubles and provoking the exasperation of the girls through painful (for him) ordeals of elf fights and what not. Interestingly, whereas most 1 guy vs. 2+ girls shows use the male as a punching target or as a love object, Rune Soldier does a great job of avoiding this damaging stereotype. Instead, Louie is cast as an individual who learns and grows, garnering respect from his surrounding teammates as a valuable asset to their goals (which are slightly fuzzy at the moment). The oddly fascinating story is backed up heavily by the artwork, which flaunts an array of blinding colors that can only have the effect of making a viewer ridiculously happy. The main downset is its current appearance of being fluff without any depth, but as it's only the first volume, the series carries potential. If you liked Orphen, just know that this is better. This just may be right up your alley—give it a rent or I'll sick you with my +3 Magical Cliff-Dwelling Luminairish Claymore.

A Little Snow Fairy Sugar Vol. #1 (also w/box)
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/? $29.98/34 04/08/2003

If I was diabetic, this would cure me for life. It's one of those things that are so cute I want to fall over, clutch a teddy bear, whimper, and gauge my eyes out so the fluffy images would stop dancing in my retina. Saga is a girl whose life revolves around order and discipline. She meets an insanely cute and hungry fairy named Sugar, and in a bout of utter cuteness, gives it a waffle to eat. Sugar goes to live with Saga and starts wreaking hell around the house, which totally clashes with Saga's pristine lifestyle. Sugar is one a hunt for “Twinkles,” which are things that will make a certain magic seed grow. It goes without saying that this is a kids' show, but it's one that people of any age could enjoy. Unlike many modern children's shows, it doesn't carry that obnoxious patronizing tone that treats children like subhumans. Rather, it explores the story in an intelligent way, using the same wit and honesty that you'd expect in a show aimed at an older audience. This is definitely one that can transcend the ages.

City Hunter: .357 Magnum
ADV Films 80 min. 1/1 $29.98 04/08/2003

Reaching back into 1995, ADV brings out the second City Hunter movie for release, effectively making me feel old knowing that such a recent year was a chilling eight years ago. You wouldn't think that the age would show in an anime movie animated in the mid-90s, but it does. The animation is rather weak, and the character designs are reminiscent of the original series made back in the late 80s (which is nothing short of obvious). Unfortunately, this similarity means that the movie looks like it's seven years older than it really is. Luckily, the movie is entertaining in itself, and if anyone's ever seen the TV series or read the manga, then it's like a longer version of any given episode. The movie kicks off with the information that a beautiful pianist is performing in town, followed by murders, kidnapping, and an assortment of other bad things that tend to hamper any pending concert. It's up to the City Hunter to take down the bad guys using a variety of cool moves, slick tricks, and other detective-esque stuff. It's definitely not the best movie ever made, but it's a great way to just lay back and turn off your brain for an hour and a half. Sit back and enjoy watching someone else do all the work.

Big Wars
Central Park Media 70 min. 1/1 $19.99 04/08/2003

When humans try to colonize Mars, a race of people known as the Gods (no, it couldn't get any lamer than that) attack them because they view mankind as some kind of infection spreading into the universe. And—oh wait, that's actually all the plot there is. Clearly, this movie is not one for plot twists and unexpected moves. I'm highly unsure how to rate this movie. On the one hand, the action sequences are fun to watch and the art is lush and vibrant. On the other hand, the characters are emotionless, dry, unchanging, stock, and excruciatingly boring to watch. It feels like a really long episode to some unknown anime, as it strives pitifully for a goal sparkling in the distance. It reaches, it reaches… it reaches—and—thud. It just doesn't make it. If you get a kick out all-out action movies set in a futuristic places with a cast a la Keanu Reeves and Kurt Russell, then this is right up your alley. It's good for a rental with a group of friends, but if you're looking for some quality movie, you'd better look far elsewhere.

Perishable Item

Melty Lancer Vol. #2: Omega
Bandai Entertainment 75 min. 2/2 $29.98 04/08/2003

Appearances can be very, very, very deceiving. From the looks of the series, with it's beautiful character designs and its pretty animation, all the way down to its perky and enjoyable soundtrack, you'd think those qualities would be enough to keep the world's worst plot afloat. Well, some way, somehow, Melty Lancer has the ability to be such a crappy series with such a weak story that its level of fecal matter utterly drowns out any of its good qualities. In this final volume, viewers are able to see the internal strife that the girls are experiencing as they're being torn apart by their own ambitions. Unfortunately, a terrorist group decides to take them out in conjunction with the mysterious Iyonesco, forcing them to abandon their differences and work together. Normally this ploy works for every series, even the sorriest show in the whole world. No. Not this time. You have to try damned hard to make a series seem like it's not trying to accomplish anything other than rampant fanservice and beauty shots of shallow and vapid girls. Melty Lancer honestly had a lot of potential—the story was interesting, it was visually well-done, the characters seemed like a (potentially) fun enough group—but instead, it was done in such a piss-poor manner that if anyone is able to enjoy the series, I will be drastically impressed. Sorry guys, try again.

Four Play
Anime 18 60 min. 1/1 $29.9 04/08/2003

Two things come to mind: 1) The title should be Three Play, as only three characters ever come into sexual contact with each other, and 2) I refuse to believe that the characters are at least 18. Despite the four people that are clearly shown on the cover, one of them is not playing. Apparently, it's just kinkier to call something “Four Play” than say, “Three's Company.” Right at the get go, you learn that Noriko has been ill at home for quite a few weeks. The teacher sends two male students to go check up on her and give her the homework she's missed. When they walk in, they find out that she's turned into some nymphatic slut who has an insatiable sexual appetite. The reason why she is like this is never explained, but the guys don't care, as they befriend her (not that she would care) and fulfill her desires over and over and over again. I struggled to find a plot. I squinted my eyes, pummeled by head against a cinderblock wall, and peered at the screen from twenty different angles, but try as I might, I couldn't find an ounce of substance that would qualify as a “plot.” The only thing I noticed was that the sex was extremely realistically done, which might appeal to some people. Other than that, it's a bath of shoddy animation, blasé character designs, and pointless excuses for sex. This is the epitome of animated amateur porn.

Mama Mia!
Anime 18 45 min. 1/1 $29.99 04/08/2003

I never knew there was so many ways to have intercourse with one man and two women. I also never knew how disturbing such Oedipal shows could be if one even thought about the real-life implications. Yuichi is your typical loner kid who either (here a roulette is spun with one of the following options: finds an android who falls in love with him, ends up having sex with his stepmother and stepsister, gets courted by a goddess/princess/fairy and her sisters, moves into a house filled with women)—let's wait for the wheel to stop spinning—ends up having sex with his stepmother and stepsister. At least with the other scenarios there are chances of story, emotion, plot twists, side plots, but with the unlucky spot that we ended up with, that's about as deep as you can go. Pay attention kids: incest is bad. Incest is like the bad drugs of the sex world, okay? Remember, if some perverted old man asks you to watch an incestual show with him, just say no!

As always, this column must come to an end (amidst cheers of joy amongst readers, I'm sure), and this marks that point. Until next week, don't waste too much money. Remember: food may be a pointless necessity, but it is a requisite to living.

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