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Shelf Life
And the anime and the antelope play

by Bamboo Dong,
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, welcome to the Shelf Life Anime Parkway, the world's largest and only natural habitat anime zoo. Here, on our trams, such as the one you are currently seated in, you'll be able to travel through acres of lush native vegetation and see freely grazing herds of various anime titles. When this establishment was created forty years ago, the founder had a dream. His dream was to preserve the anime titles indigenous to the land and also the unique balance they have with the ecosystem. That dream was fulfilled when this place was contracted—anime titles of every genre and format can be saved and shown to visitors everywhere as they themselves remain happily unfettered and free. Before we embark on this tour, let me remind you to check out some of our gift shops and food stalls. Near the front of the entrance is the Artists' Pavilion, where you can find all kinds of gifts and merchandize to commemorate your lovely visit here today. Right next door to that building is the Production Consortium, where you'll e able to satisfy your nourishment and refreshment needs. This week's special is the Ghibli Burger, so be sure to check it out after this adventure is finished. Remember, even though the titles here appear to be domesticated, they still retain their natural instincts. Please do not provoke the titles or feed them, and remember to keep all body parts inside the tram area at all times. Thank you and enjoy the ride.

Shelf Worthy

Spirited Away
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 124 min. 1/1 $29.99 04/15/2003

To the left side of the tram, you will be able to see a species known as Spirited Away. Sporting a brilliant display of colors and artistry, its fluid movements are lauded by some filmologists as the ultimate step of evolution. It is known by many as the most refined species from the genus Miyazaki. The densest populations of Spirited Away are in Japan, where it dominated the movie box office records, even surpassing the top to be the highest grossing film in Japanese cinema history. In addition to its gorgeous appearance and fine story, it also sports a wide range of beautiful calls, which is exemplified on its serene soundtrack. Aside from its beautifully animated movements and calming sounds, Spirited Away carries an interesting background as well. As a young girl named Chihiro sits in the car with her parents to her new house, they take a wrong turn and find themselves in a mysterious shrine-like location. They discover that the other side of the shrine leads to an amusement park that has been abandoned, even though there is still one food stall left in operation. Much to Chihiro's surprise and fear, her parents are turned into pigs and she alone must save them. As it turns out, the desolated amusement park awakens in the night, revealing it to be a bathhouse for the various gods of Japanese myth. In the hopes of rescuing her parents, Chihiro is employed in the bathhouse where she meets a myriad of mystical creatures, ranging from beautiful dragons to giant babies. Spirited Away is not only a wonderfully woven tale about a child in a fantastical place, but also a moralistic story about knowing oneself and helping others. While this species may look docile, it has a highly ferocious side, tackling a Golden Bear award and victoriously battling Disney's Lilo & Stitch to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Without a doubt, this is a must-buy for anime fans everywhere.

Kiki's Delivery Service
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 102 min. 1/1 $29.98 04/15/2003

If everyone will please look to the right of the tram, there is a herd of grazing Kiki's Delivery Services. Also belonging to the genus Miyazaki, this species is one of the most beloved children's movies ever made. Recently captured and released on bilingual DVD by the scientists at Buena Vista, this animated classic can be enjoyed by anyone in the family. If you look more closely, you'll see screeching black felines on the shoulders of every animal. Known as Jijis, those creatures are talkative beings that have some sort of symbiotic relationship with the Kikis that scientists are still struggling to understand. Sporting dynamic animation and vibrant colors, each Kiki is a visual tour de force that raises it to the highest ranks of the Anime Kingdom. I myself am a huge supporter of this particular species, not only for its technical elements, but also for its story-telling prowess. The movie follows a 13-year old witch who must venture out into the world to learn a trade. Accompanied by a cat named Jiji, Kiki sets up an airborne delivery service, learning valuable lessons along the way, such as hope and discipline, friendship and loss. Without a doubt, this movie is a timeless one that can be shown to anime fans of all ages and their families.

Castle in the Sky
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 124 min. 1/1 $29.99 04/15/2003

Oh, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser! Everyone, if you'll look right above you, you'll see that we are approaching the nesting grounds of the Laputas, beautifully plumed creatures that are characterized by their giant wingspans and a peculiar patch of blue feathers on their chests that resemble an amulet of some sort. These birds belong to the genus Hayao, so named because another scientist already nabbed the name Miyazaki. As with the rest of the Studio Ghibli movies being released this week by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Castle in the Sky is a beautiful film that's perfect to watch either in a family setting, or just on your own. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Castle in the Sky, it stars a young mining apprentice who stumbles upon an enigmatic woman with a magical pendant. Together, they embark on a journey to find the legendary floating island Laputa, all the meanwhile encountering pirates, secret agents, and other characters. With strong animation, a solid and entertaining storyline, and beautiful music, Castle in the Sky is a film that cannot be missed. This will definitely be a title to put on your shelves and leave around for future generations to enjoy as well.

Rental Shelf

Dirty Pair Flash Collection ADV Films 400 min. 1/1 $39.98 04/15/2003

As we round the bend, we'll soon be able to see an interesting breed of anime. This particular breed indulges in explosions and skimpy outfits. In fact—ah, there they are right now! If you will look to either side of the train, you will see a collection of Dirty Pair Flashes. Collecting 16 episodes onto a 3-disc set, this collection allows fans of DP Flash to be able to watch all of the different “mission” volumes for one extremely cheap price. Kei and Yuri are two agents who seem to have a knack for getting into odd situations, but luckily, almost anything can be solved with guns and enough firepower. Written in a humorous manner, the random adventures encountered by the pair make for entertaining and exciting viewing. However, as fun and brainless to watch as this series is, it also carries its downsides. The episodes that comprise Flash have virtually nothing in common with one another, with no overarching arc of any kind other than secret-agent-esque fight sequences and massive fanservice. When I say massive fanservice, I really mean it, as the cameras have a difficult time filming anything without inserting an angled breast or buttocks shot. Fans of the original Dirty Pair have the potential of liking or disliking the series—even though the two series have little to do with one another (even the character design) and Flash carries a more slapstick humor and fanservice oriented platform, the series is nevertheless a fun chance to see favorite characters again in a different perspective and enjoy some good old Dirty Pair fun. If all else fails, you have the music to back you up, as Flash has a collection of some pretty cute intro and ending songs. This is definitely something that should be checked out by fans of funny (read: cheesy) action series.

Gate Keepers 21 Vol. #1
Pioneer Animation 90 min. 1/2 $29.98 04/15/2003

Oh my goodness! We've stumbled upon a beautiful incident! This mother Gatekeeper is giving birth!!! Oh, how beautiful! Everyone sing with me—come on now, don't be shy—all together now—Let's open the GATE! Before I say anything about them, let me just state for the record that I was not a big fan of Gate Keepers. I went into Gate Keepers 21 with the heavy bias that I would hate it. In fact, I convinced myself to hate it while I was watching the first episode, but as the episodes went by, I realized with surprise that I was actually enjoying it. Gate Keepers 21 sports insanely fluid animation, which makes the fight sequences very impressive. Interestingly, the atmosphere of this OVA is a lot darker than the excessively happy-go-lucky series. Taking place forty years from the original series, the new AEGIS members must face a variety of both internal and external forces, ranging from personal struggles against GATE abilities, the pain of the past, and the interesting twist (and moral issues) of fighting against human Invaders. Altogether, it's an impressive OVA. The downside? While the story does okay from a standalone point of view, there are many aspects of it that would be deemed confusing if the viewer hasn't seen the TV series. The issues that are dealt with don't have the same impact unless the context from the original series is put into place. Even if you didn't fully enjoy Gate Keepers though, you just might be able to enjoy its more serious, more morose offspring.

Dragon Ball GT Vol. #01: Baby: Affliction
Dragon Ball GT Vol. #02: Baby: Incubation
Funimation Productions 62 min. 1/2/? $24.95 04/15/2003

Set ten years after the end of Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT is an interesting chance to see more adventures from one of the biggest anime franchises aired in the US. You can't see them right now, because they have a propensity for turning into infants and scampering around in the bushes, but if they get over this problem, they'll be fine again. Fans of Dragon Ball or DBZ should definitely check out this title, as the story lines are interesting and the action sequences are well-paced. In the first volumes, you get to see the characters in their new lives—certain characters are married with children, other are perfecting their skills. Suddenly, a fragment of the past returns to cause grief when Emperor Pilaf comes back with the power of the Dragonballs behind him and turns Goku into a child. Obviously, this is going to irk the characters a bit, so they embark on a journey to fix the curse. Coming from a person who will admit that she was not a big fan of Dragon Ball Z, I enjoyed Dragon Ball GT. The story is interesting, and the story is paced extremely well. Naturally, if you have no interest in Dragon Ball Z whatsoever, or avoid it like the plague, this title may not settle so well with you. Despite any grievances you may have for DBZ though, might I suggest that you give this a brief rental?

Hyper Police Vol. #5 Image Entertainment 100 min. 5/6 $19.95 04/15/2003

As we move past the Dragonballs, you'll be able to see a gathering of various animal-like creatures. This is our pride of Hyper Polices, a random collection of episodes thrown together and mixed with an amusement spatula. While the episodes themselves are random and don't seem to fall under any heavily organized overarching story, the story is getting more and more interesting as the series progresses. There are hints of romance in the air, time capsules, and much more. While the presence of an episodic storyline doesn't bring the series down heavily, the seemingly chaotic plot development throughout the volume makes it seem much more disjointed. However, if Hyper Police has one consistent quality, it's the ability to make the audience chuckle. With its energy and humor, it creates a fun atmosphere that lets one enjoy the randomness of the series more. With the series one disc from the end, it'll be interesting to see how it ends up.

Neoranga Vol. #2
ADV Films 120 min. 2/6 $29.98 04/15/2003

Ah, look at these wonderful camouflaged creatures. Bedecked in a spectacle of paint and body suits, they really are an odd bunch. Neoranga's 15-minute episodes are an interesting way to present the show and it works very well. The pacing works great with its short format, and it enables them to shift scenes very well. This volume is filled with amusing scenarios, from marketing ploys to good old robot vs. robot action. It's definitely hard to place this particular series into any defined genre. On the one hand, it has robots and what not, but it also has gods and girls and mystic stuff here and there. Despite the lack of way to really define this show, it's an amusing show. It's pretty unclear where the story is going, or if it really is going anywhere, but for the time being, it's pretty enjoyable.

Reign: The Obsession of Alexander Vol. #2
TOKYOPOP 80 min. 2/4 $29.99 04/15/2003

Over to your right is a collection of the weirdest beasts you will ever see in the remainder of your natural life—Reigns. Scrawny, stretched out, stringy, and with obscenely large lips, Reigns are interesting characters that have quite an interesting history. In this particular volume, viewers can see Alexander the Great's exploits in Greece, as well as his plans for fulfilling the prophecy made concerning his future. The story is fairly interesting and well-written, though the history is off at times. As long as viewers understand that it's largely fictional, however, this immature gripe can be easily excused. Despite being into the second volume, however, the character design is still hard for me to get used to, drawn in Peter Chung's noted style. Whatever the personal preference though, Reign remains an interesting and unique series that definitely deserves a hearty rental.

Perishable Item

Real Bout High School Box Set
TOKYOPOP 325 min. 1/1 $79.99 04/15/2003

We will now pass through the intensive care ward, where all the unhealthy anime titles are kept. Ah, here's one of them now. The Real Bout High School boxset. Poor thing, it's really been suffering. According to the recent reports from our doctors, Real Bout is suffering from some sort of delirium that makes the storyline incomprehensible. It starts off as a unique show about a high school that uses martial arts as its main curriculum. The story focuses on one of the star students is Ryoko, who is an amazing fighter that exhibits great bravery and determination. One day, in a burst of anime creativity, Ryoko finds a magical pendant that will transport her to an alternate dimension to fight things that are evil in some shape or form. Even with a story as mildly lame as that, the series would still have potential. Unfortunately, because of its rare and incurable disease, it spins off into a random string of events that leave viewers wondering what's going on past the first disc. In a desperate move to salvage the former plot, the last few episodes once again revert back to the story started in the first volume. This series started out with potential, but unfortunately, it's done in such a manner that it is unclear what the writers and director wanted to accomplish. The path that it follows is different from the manga, leading to two clashing stories that hardly seem to intersect at all. Ultimately, even though the idea of having a fighting high school is original and seems fun to watch, this is a series that should be avoided. The art and animation are good enough, but with such a disjointed storyline, many viewers will definitely have a difficult time following the events on the screen. Maybe that extra $80 would be better spent elsewhere (or in our amazing Gift Shop?)

As we approach the end of the tour, please be careful upon exiting the train. Please check your surrounding area for any personal items and belongings. Don't forget to spend an absurd amount of money in our over-priced restaurant and gift shop! Lastly, thanks for visiting Shelf Life Anime Parkway; I hope you've enjoyed your stay.

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