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Shelf Life
Weather Patterns

by Bamboo Dong,
About a week ago, I woke up and when I looked out the window, I was astounded. The sun was streaming brightly through the clear sky, the grass was vibrant and green, and the blossoms on the deciduous trees were blooming heartily. As I walked to my classes, I noticed things that I had never noticed before. Was that building there before? Why are there no windows on the north side of that building? Was the grass this green the last time I looked? It dawned on me that when my high school English teacher had told me that springtime in New England was beautiful, he was referring to moments like that. Carefree times when you realize that you're truly alive, and all is right with the world. For the first time all year, I truly reveled in being where I was, immersed in the beauty of campus, enthralled by the flora of the cityscape around me.

And then the weather changed. Drastically. As I walked back from the mail room, I was hit with an onslaught of wind that tore sand across my body and made my eyes water. Before I knew it, it was pouring gales and gales of heavy, soggy rain. Such is the weather in New England - the pinnacle of natural beauty one minute, the epitome of dashed hopes the next. Being raised in Colorado's tumultuous weather patterns, this shouldn't surprise me, but it did anyway, and despite all the preparation I had garnered from my years living on the foothills, I was still distraught. When I decided to put my thoughts down in my column, I struggled to explain why I thought that this directly correlated to anime. Weather and anime? I didn't think it was possible, but where there's a will, there must be a way, or else the proverb wouldn't exist. I thought long and hard, trying to find a way to express my feelings. You can watch an anime series, love it, bathe in its glory, and think that if you could be happy for the rest of your life if you could have the entire series on DVD to accompany you through life. When the next volume comes out, you eagerly pop it into the DVD tray - and your hopes are dashed. What you once hailed as the zenith of entertainment achievement was transformed into nothing but a symbolic disc of disappointment. I came upon this predicament this week, and felt that the weather would match my feelings perfectly. Perhaps it was the sigh of resignation that I gave, but the moment that thought flashed across my mind, the series got immeasurably better, raising it back to my previous high esteem, and in a bout of irony, the rain outside died down and the sun burst forth through the dark clouds. Coincidence? Stark irony? Either way, it taught me that nothing can be judged by short-term exposure, or else you'll miss something great and regret it later.

Shelf Worthy

Arjuna Vol. #4
Bandai Entertainment 75 min. 4/4 $29.98 04/22/2003

I've always been a giant fan of ending volumes. No matter how lame a series may be, there's usually a four out of five chance that the ending will be amazing and make you realize that the series was completely worth your while. When I first saw the last few episodes of Earth Maiden Arjuna, my jaw dropped. I was completely blown out of the water. I've seen many a cool ultimate fight before, but this time, the utter creativity and uniqueness of the series smacked me upside the head with a pleasant surprise. There is no other way to describe the events that transcribed in this volume without having seen it. As the story leads up to the finale, a virus is unleashed that destroys all of the petroleum-based products in Japan in a burst of über-tree-hugging preaching. As Japan's standard of living is tossed back into a more primitive state, Juna has to come to grips with her duties and try to save an entire nation. The quality of the art and animation are upheld even to the end, and the time and energy spent on the episodes is commendable. The fluidity of the scenes fits well with the immensely engrossing story written and directed succinctly by the famed Shoji Kawamori. Mixed with Yoko Kanno's distinctive and earthy music, all the good points of Arjuna escalate and combine to form one of the most stunning ending volumes I've ever seen. If you've shied away from Arjuna before, this volume gives you the reason you've been looking for to buy it.

Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. #2: My Dearest
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 2/6 $29.98 04/22/2003

If there was any series I felt could vary drastically between good and bad, it would be this one. Yet throughout the ups and downs of this series, I still love it. Near the end of the first volume, I had noticed that the series was straying away from a love story and down the path of a slapstick comedy driven harem series. Sadly, this trend carries into the second volume, resorting to the typical scenes that come with such series, like wild parties, compromising situations, guy-beating, and sketchy situations galore. Series that fall into such a genre deserve their own merit, but the problem with Ai Yori Aoshi is that it's unclear what exactly the creator wanted to do with it. The story wavers between a cookie-cutter harem series and a truly heartfelt love story, giving it two clashing atmospheres that makes the scene transitions somewhat awkward at times. In this volume, viewers learn that there are four women living in the Sakuraba household. Naturally, this causes tension and risky situations, especially with the fanservice running rampant throughout the series. While this formula may get extremely boring after awhile, the series is lightened up by the sweet scenes between Aoi and Kaoru. For me, these precious scenes make the entire series worthwhile. If there is one thing that can be said about the staff behind the show, it's that the director knows how to do love scenes. Truly a collection of some of the most heartwarming romance scenarios ever animated, Ai Yori Aoshi contains a wealth of gems that override all the sour points of the story. With the beautiful opening theme sung by Yoko Ishida, this series is one of those series that will appeal to comedy and romance lovers alike. While the quiet mood of the love scenes sometimes clash with the 'harem' scenes, the series still looks hopeful. Until then, the screen time between the couple make the entire disc buying and watching over and over again.

Rental Shelf

Orphen: The Collection
ADV Films 600 min. 1/1 $89.98 04/22/2003

Make no mistake about it, Orphen is an entertaining series. The characters are vivacious and the scenes are humorous. The plot itself is intriguing: a sorcerer by the name of Orphen sets out to save an old friend Azalie from her present fate - a woman sealed inside the body of a monster. Along the way, the sorcerer and his compatriots come across other adventures, tidbits from the past, and mysteries that never seem to cease. The only setback? It's like watching someone play a console RPG, which could be fun, but it's still rather unsettling to watch over an extended period of time. The towns look like RPG backgrounds, the music sounds like RPG music (of the 32-bit variety), the scenarios, pacing, and side quests feel like they're lifted from an RPG - it's no surprise that Sorcerous Stabber Orphen spawned its own, you guessed it, RPG video game. While this particular aspect of the series doesn't make it bad, the linear storytelling brings it down a bit. Despite the tinny and repetitive music, though, the opening and ending themes of the series remain beautifully done, including energetic openings by Sharan Q. If such a series sounds like it would appeal to you, then you're in luck because ADV is releasing the entire series in a box. It may not be particularly complex or astounding, but it's still good for a few casual viewings. At least with such a series, the individual discs are already out, so give them a rental to see if this would be the right series for you.

Speed Racer Limited Edition Vol. #1
Family Home Entertainment 275 min. 1/? $22.98 04/22/2003

Here comes Speed Racer, he's a demon on wheels!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Speed Racer GO!!!!!!!! For that old time nostalgia kick in the face, Speed Racer is the perfect show for that this week. Released for the first time on DVD, the first disc contains the first eleven episodes of the dubbed series that was aired on American TV in the 80s. What more can I say about this? If you've never seen Speed Racer, then this is your lucky week, because now you can finally see what all the fuss is about. If this doesn't bring back old memories, I don't know what will.

The Samurai
ADV Films 45 min. 1/1 $24.98 04/22/2003

What in the world was the creator thinking when he came up with The Samurai? What in the world was Greenfield thinking when he licensed this? Well, whatever they were thinking, I'm glad they thought it. The Samurai is one crazy show, and I mean KRAZEE. There's really no way for me to convey this without just blurting out to you a few of the main plot points. The story features a normal everyday high school boy, expect for the fact that he's the son of a legendary samurai warrior and he's got the attitude to believe it. Two girls come along and decide to wreak revenge upon his carcass because their father was slain by the boy's father. Right here you can already get a sense of how the story is going to play out, as well as the amount of bickering the characters will be getting into. There has to be a catch, though, right? Of course. Turns out, the boy is deathly afraid of the sight of naked women (think DNA^2 for a contemporary example) - and there I will end my story. What's nice is that even with the simplistic story, the 45-minute OVA still has time to explore the pasts of the characters and delve into deeper topics - all while keeping within the realm of humor and absurdity. Even though the story is cheesy and is inundated with fanservice, it's still entertaining to watch for some good old non-intellectual fun. After you're done with it, I can't say that you'll have made yourself a better person, or that your life has been changed at all, but it's still a good boredom-filler. The colors are vibrant and the animation serves its purpose; really, if you want a great way to kill 45 minutes, rent this.

Dragon Ball Z World Tournament Box Set
Funimation Productions 1 $42.95 04/22/2003

Just because Dragon Ball Z is no longer on Cartoon Network doesn't mean that fans have to stop watching the series that has created such a large impact on anime fandom. With Funimation's release of the World Tournament box set, fans can watch the complete tournament saga on bilingual DVDs for an extremely attractive price. While this set of episodes may not be the best in the series, they're still interesting in terms of the story. Character building, fighting, mysterious Super Saiyan powers - yeah, DBZ fans know what I'm talking about. The discs are done extremely well, and anyone who enjoyed this part of the series should definitely check it out. Luckily, the individual volumes are out as well, so if you missed this chunk of episodes on TV, you can just yank it from your local video rental store. Sure, there are people who don't like Dragon Ball Z, but Toriyama is popular for a reason. You won't know until you've seen it for yourself.

Inu Yasha Vol. #4/5
Viz Inc. 75 min. 4/5/? $24.98 04/22/2003

With a series as long as Inu Yasha, it's a little disconcerting that Viz is releasing it three episodes at a time. At this rate, it will take at least 30+ DVDs just to catch up to Japan, and at $25 per disc, fans are looking at a $750 commitment. Just as a comparison, my car only cost $1000. Ah, but I digress. Regardless of the money that will be spent by hardcore Inu Yasha fans, the series is still fun to watch every now and then. In these volumes, Inu is further pitted against a variety of evils, while Kagome raises a hissy fit in the background. I have to admit that when watched on occasion, the series can be rather fun. However, I've never been able to watch more than three episodes in a row at a time without getting bored. The episodes are very patterned and don't offer much to keep entertained poor denizens like me who have a short attention span. Before you go off and decide to buy this, I highly recommend giving it a rental first. If you haven't been following it on TV, though, you owe it to yourself to at least check out the series once sometime in your life.

Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Box #3
Bandai Entertainment 300 min. 3/4 $49.98 04/22/2003
Mobile Fighter G-Gundam Vol. #7/8/9
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 9/12 $19.98 04/22/2003

As someone who's used to seeing the good ol' old-fashioned Gundam series with all the political angst, teamwork issues, socioeconomic bickering, and robots that actually needed to be piloted from a cockpit, it's hard for me to accept G-Gundam as a real Gundam series. Nevertheless, I still watched it, and realized that whether or not I thought of it as Gundam, it was still a good series. The first season ended on a rather serious note, with the characters revealing pieces of their backgrounds and motivations. Expecting more along these serious and dramatic lines, I was faintly surprised when I saw the second arc of the series. Having made it to the Neo Hong Kong finals, Domon must strive harder against his own personal goals to beat the new challenges that face him. The series takes a turn for a more lighthearted atmosphere, bringing it back to the fighting and action oriented story that was prominent near the beginning of the show. If you haven't been following these episodes elsewhere, then here's your chance to catch up. The animation is slick and really gives the battle scenes the sense of physical movement that makes them enjoyable to watch. Even without the political brouhaha that came with the older Gundam series, if this series keeps up the good work, I'll be a fan before long.

Rei Rei
SoftCel Pictures 50 min. 1/1 $29.98 04/22/2003

Remember back in the day when hentai focused more on plot, comedy, and deeper meanings than just random acts of sexual intercourse? Well, if you've forgotten, here's a title that will bring back all those memories to your cerebral head. Rei Rei stars a being named Kaguya who lives somewhere between the Earth and the moon, spending her time ending other people's suffering and grief. The problem is, once she gives someone the chance to fulfill their wishes, she leaves them on their own to deal with the results, whether savory or not. With scenarios like plotted murders and sex changes, Rei Rei is filled with hysterical situations, combined with a steady plot that lets the story flow naturally. The sex is kept to a minimum, and for the most part, the OVA is just a lewd excuse to have a good time watching a bizarre standalone release. With art and animation typical to that of any given hentai release, there is nothing spectacular about the OVA. However, just with the amusement value in watching one sketchily funny scene after another, it's definitely worth a light-hearted rent.

Perishable Item

Great Dangaioh Vol. #3
Viz Inc. N/A min. 3/4 $24.98 04/22/2003

Sometimes, sequels just don't live up to their predecessors, and Great Dangaioh is living proof of that. The original show was exciting and intense; this one is just blasé. There are just only so many things you can do with the band of rogue heroes pitted against the evils of the world tag, and the original Dangaioh already did it. With the series nearing the end, more mysteries are introduced, one of them a possible foreshadowing to the end of the world (unless our heroes can fight it in time!). Usually, plot twists like this work for every series, regardless of how many times the same scenes have been used. For some reason, it just doesn't work for this show. The characters are dull and the plot is very linear, with almost no unexpected turns at all. What you see is what you get, and with Great Dangaioh, I really don't like what I see. Even with the decent animation and the smooth coloring, the visual aspects of the series just can't make up for the poor way the story was drafted. Do yourself a favor and root out the original.

Project ARMS Vol. #04
Viz Inc. 75 min. 4/6 $24.98 04/22/2003

As much as the premise of the show intrigues me, it has almost no personality. The characters are boring and drab and drag down the entire show. Don't get me wrong, the actual story itself is great. This volume shows more of that angsty teen action, complete with mystery and suspense. As the ARMS guys gain entrance into Egregori lab, they learn secrets about their pasts and reasoning behind the actions that have been occurring in the series so far. The animation is decent, and the music is oddly fascinating. What's the problem then, if everything is fine and the story is picking up? Well, the best story in the world can still be mediocre if the characters populating it are nothing but two-dimensional dialogue. This is a definite shame because the series had a lot of potential. If you were a fan of the manga, then this might be somewhat fun for you to watch, but other wise, you might want to consider buying something else this week.

Trouble Chocolate Vol. #4
Viz Inc. 100 min. 4/5 $24.98 04/22/2003

Try as I might, I can't seem to find a cohesive plot in this series. Even though the series is fast approaching the end, all I can really gather is that there're a lot of people running around eating chocolate, and when they do, weird stuff happens. So basically, it's kind of like a bunch of kids running around smoking pot and then doing stupid things because of it. It's not funny. You really would think that it would be funny, but it's not. The trouble that the characters get themselves into is somewhat amusing, such as random animal transformations and sporadic acts of nihilism, but without a really solid plot to back it up, or even explain why the events would even happen to begin with, the series fails to convey whatever emotion it strives to. The characters are largely flat and seem to exist only to take an absurd amount of ridicule, pain, and humiliation. While this may be some people's cup of tea, it's certainly not mine.

Well, that wasn't too long, I hope. Until next week, enjoy the weather!

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