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Shelf Life
Wine and Revelry

by Bamboo Dong,
At one point or another, every child raised in the American public education system is exposed to Greek mythology in some shape or form. Whether they learn about the Gods and Goddesses, read myths, act out plays, watch films, or have some kind of Greek Festival (like the schools in my hometown did), they leave high school with at least enough knowledge of the ancient gods to nod wisely if someone mentions the name Zeus. Naturally, there were also gods, goddesses, and heroes that were talked about more than the others, like Zeus, Apollo, Heracles, Hades, Poseidon, and others. For me, though, my favorite had always been Dionysus (who served as the Roman god Bacchus), the god of revelry and wine. Mind you, I liked him not for his association with intoxication, but because I had always thought he was misunderstood by his peers. In many myths and plays, he is portrayed as a harsh god who runs amok punishing people for not worshipping him and acknowledging his godly birth. I always thought that maybe there was a reason he did the things he did—that maybe other people just did stupid things and blamed it on him, just for his ties with wine and ecstasy. To me, he always seemed like a nice guy. I'm sure everyone has heard of the myth where he grants King Midas the wish that everything the king touches will turn into gold. This, of course, becomes inconvenient when the king realizes that because of his powers, he can't do any of the things he enjoyed in everyday living, like eating or drinking or even just touching the flowers in his garden. Heck, he even killed his own daughter by turning her into gold (generally not a good thing to do). Normally, the story would end with some spiteful god guffawing and imparting some advice along the lines of “Be careful what you wish for, you stupid fool!!!” followed by a long life of torture and hellish desiring. But no—Dionysus is nice enough to say to the poor guy, hey, what you did was dumb, but here's how you can solve it. Granted, he wasn't able to save Midas's now-golden daughter, but at least he spared him from any further grievances. To me, this shows that Dionysus was always a kind man. What did that whole paragraph accomplish? Well, I guess I just wanted to point out that everyone deserves a second chance. If a director churns out a horrible production, he deserves an unbiased look at his second one. If a television station makes a bad edit, this doesn't mean that they'll continue to do the same. If the first volume of a series is bad—who knows, maybe the next will be better. With that thought out of the way, welcome to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Kimagure Orange Road Vol. #1-12
AnimEigo 100 min. 1-12/12 $24.95 04/29/2003

Reaching back into the nostalgic days of yore, AnimEigo is releasing the entire Kimagure Orange Road television series on individual DVD. Perfect for those of you who didn't preorder the KOR boxset, or don't want to buy the entire series, all 48 episodes are now available for your viewing pleasure in English subtitled only format. For the fans who remember huddling in comic store basements watching 6th generation fansubs of KOR with their anime club, this is definitely a release you won't want to miss. It'll bring back all the laughter, the tears, the joy—everything you need to feel warm, cozy, and frightfully old. For all the newcomers, here's the perfect chance to get in on the action. KOR can be described as your regular high school romance series—boy falls in love with girl, girl's best friend falls in love with him, boy is indecisive, and a humorous yet angsty love triangle develops. Did I mention that the boy has telekinetic powers? Despite how generic the plot may sound, the actual series is pretty creative and unique. Dipping now and then into the surreal, it's definitely one of those shoujo romance series that helped define the genre. Produced in the 80s, the age is definitely visible in the art and animation, but with the amusing and oftentimes heartfelt antics on the screen, the story is definitely strong enough to gloss over any decade-differences. The music also fits with the series produced during the time, with poppy music and cheerful melodies that will further drive in the nail of nostalgia to warm your heart. You have absolutely no reason not to see this series.

Magic User's Club DVD Boxset
Media Blasters 505 min. 1/1 $89.95

Collecting the six episode OVA series and the complete TV series, Media Blasters is releasing a box set of Mahou Tsukai Tai, marketed in the States as the Magic User's Club. Arguably one of the cutest and most random series on witches ever animated, the series will certainly appeal to all fans of the bizarre and sugary. In the OVA series, the viewer is greeted with an alien invader of sorts who plops itself in the middle of the town. Thankfully, there's a group of unexplained magic users there wearing skimpy outfits to save the day! Once the adventures of the OVA series are cleared away, the television series follows it up, giving more background into the other people that interact with the characters. While the backgrounds of the witches are explored, as well as their everyday lives, the characters themselves never really change. Regardless of the experiences they go through, no one ever seems to mature or learn anything. Luckily, there's enough antics in the series to prevent viewers from thinking to hard about things like that. The TV series focuses more on the regular everyday things in life of the witches instead of things like sinister alien invaders, but regardless of what the subject matter is, the episodes manage to stay fresh and funny. It's not a series that will change your life, or impact it beyond a compassion for the characters, but without a doubt, it's worth buying for all those times you feel down, or just need a good laugh.

Magic Knight Rayearth OVA Collection
Manga Entertainment 180 min. 1/1 $29.95 04/29/2003

Fans of the Magic Knight Rayearth TV series or manga who did not see the OVA series when it was released on individual discs will either be overjoyed or disappointed. Bearing no relation to any of its namesakes, the Rayearth OVAs take all of the characters and throw them into a Cephiro story unlike any of the others. At the end of their last year of junior high, the girls express their regret in having to go to different high schools the next year. As that wish is made, they're whisked away into the land of Cephiro where they have to battle forces to save the planet and their newfound friends. Filled with absolutely gorgeous art and equally impressive animation, the series is one that will appeal to your visual senses. The over-cheese in the script as the characters affirm over and over again their faith in friendship get a bit tiresome, but it's really a sweet series that falls just a bit too short to fully develop the story as well as possible. Even with this shortcoming, the pacing is solid and uniform, making it an interesting viewing. Rayearth fans may be slightly miffed at the lack of relation between the TV series and the OVAs, but the characters stay the same. In fact, given the fact that the OVAs were meant to be a standalone project, the way that the characters were developed is rather impressive. It would have done the episodes good to have more time, but within the space allotted, it's quite commendable. Overall, this is something that many could enjoy. The scenes are sprinkled with fighting, tears, love, and everything in between, and with the amazing visuals, it's something that shouldn't be missed.

Rental Shelf

If I See You in my Dreams
Media Blasters 90 min. 1/1 $24.95 04/29/2003

Known in Japan as Yume de Aetara, this OVA series was originally published in manga format and then made into a series of short animated television episodes. Targeting an audience of older business-type men, the story carries none of the more frivolous aspects of anime like magical girls or robots or super powers—rather, it's just a simplistic tale of the struggles of love. The story features a romantic misfit named Misou, a salary man who has never had a girlfriend and his convinced that he will never get one. Before he knows it, he's thrown in a pile of love troubles when he meets Nagisa, a young school teacher who is the woman he has always wanted. Of course, things don't go smoothly for him. Not only is he vastly inexperienced, he has competition from other men, as well another woman who's throwing herself into his arms. While the OVAs are somewhat funny at times, they're too short to really accomplish anything. The events that transpire between the characters also aren't exactly what one would call surprising. There are the standard awkward moments, the misunderstandings that get painfully annoying after a while, and the humorous competition between the men. On the other hand, though, there are a few good moments in the series when the emotions on the screen are truly just sweet and caring. These moments and the amusing scenes that occur every now and then are really the aspects that keep the OVA enjoyable. The animation and character design are nothing to get excited about, sporting adequate fluidity and random fanservice here and there. Altogether, it's a nice title that would be fun to watch late at night with some friends, or something to pop in the DVD tray for some good old procrastination. It's nothing life-changing, but at least you won't really be wasting your money on it.

Dragon Ball Feature 1: The Path to Power
FUNimation 80 min. $29.95 04/29/2003

I'm thoroughly confused about this release. Some retailers have it marked as Dragon Ball Feature 1, and others have it marked as Dragon Ball Movie 4. What in the world is this thing? Well, whatever it is, it makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Retelling the story of how Bulma met Goku, the entire myth of the seven Dragon Balls is explained. Turns out, they're not the only ones after the Eternal Dragon's power, a realization that leads to tussles between them and the Red Ribbon Army. One of the most fun Dragon Ball releases out there, the Path to Power has good pacing combined with solid storytelling skill, bringing out the abilities associated with works that tab the Akira Toriyama name on them. While the animation is standard, the action sequences are still done well enough to make the scenes flow well together. Fans of the Dragon Ball franchise should at least give this a good rental. Even if you've never seen any of the series before, this is a good time to start. It explains everything, introduces you to the characters, and while it's vastly different from Dragon Ball Z, it's just as good or even better.

Gun Frontier Vol. #1: Hopalong Harlock
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/? $29.95 04/29/03

If I imparted the advice for you to check out this series just because it has Matsumoto's name on it, it would be shallow and unhelpful. So instead, I'll tell you to watch this disc because of the things that are many of his titles, including Gun Frontier. The story is paced extremely well, if a bit slow at times, and is filled with plenty of contemplative moments that allow viewers to mull over potentially profound statement that a character has made. The plot is strongly presented, leaving no wavering moments of doubt as to what the director is trying to accomplish. Granted, the character designs are a bit odd if you aren't familiar with Matsumoto's works, but if you know of his characters, then you'll feel right at home with the ones that grace the scenes of Gun Frontier. Set in the wild frontier, the series follows the adventures of a sea pirate and a samurai in the Old West of the United States as they try to track down a clan of Japanese immigrants. Hearing that, I'm sure readers will approach the volume rather warily, but really, it's better than it sounds. It's certainly unique in its own way, and for anyone who wants an interesting take on your average Western tale, Gun Frontier is the way to go.

Idol Project Vol. #2: Final Concert
Media Blasters 60 min. 2/2 $19.95 04/29/03

Call me crazy, but I love this OVA series. With the last two episodes of this four episode series, things get even weirder than they did in the first volume, as hard as it is to imagine. The Idol Dimension that the girls have landed in are all nuts over Yuri, the super-idol who's also the president of the Starland world. The people in the new dimension love her so much that they all want to be her. In fact, they all begin to turn into her, physically. In order to save the day, Mimu and the Excellent Idols must prove to the Idol Dimension that there are other idols that are just as good, and just a popular as Yuri. Even before I finished the plot synopsis, I bet a lot of you already thought I was weird, or that the show is. Well, I can't disagree with the former, but as far as the second one goes—well, I guess I can't disagree with that either. The scenes are so bizarre that they make sense only in the context of the series, resulting in a highly energized show that's insanely fun to watch. The episodes lack in music, even considering the idol premise of the story, but the pieces that are there are cute to listen to (for the most part). While the technical aspects of the episodes are mediocre, such as the animation and sound, the actual story itself is just so convoluted and random that it's pretty hard not to crack a smile at least once throughout each episode. As finals weeks are coming and going, this is perfect for a good old study break any night.

Wild Arms Vol. #3: The Return of Laila
ADV Films 100 min. 3/6 $29.98 04/29/2003

This series just keeps getting more and more interesting. I never would have thought I could enjoy a video game based series, but this one really is something. After our heroes help out some bad guy who wants to change his ways, his past catches up to him as a mysterious girl named Laila pops into his life for a brief moment. In the meantime, there are more people that are trying to get to the ARMS technology, so the girls must always be on the lookout for such wayfaring miscreants. Without a doubt, the comfortable pacing of the series and the solid way the story is told is the driving force behind these episodes. The other aspects of it, like the art, music, animation, are largely standard, or a bit above average. While watching the series, one can't help but take all their focus away from such things and zoom in on the action happening on the screen. The characters are just plain fun to watch. I think that's it. The characterization is always being worked on, with revealing conversations or background information being passed around, and every time something happens to them, they change as a result of it. The way they interact is truly fun to watch, and with the series approaching the halfway mark, I hope that the quality continues. If you get bored this week, try this on for size. You just may end up liking it.

Saiyuki Vol #1 DVD w/ box & T-shirt
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $44.98 04/29/2003

Yet another animized spin on a Chinese tale, this one being the one about the monkey king and his cohorts. Except with guns and jeeps and stuff. Talk about anachronism! Luckily, things like that make the show interesting. As the viewer follows the adventures of this band of random people/things, they're met with other things that would make the series interesting, like demonic warriors trying to eat people, dragons that morph into all terrain vehicles, and women. While the concept of redoing the classic Chinese myth with modern day equipment is interesting, some of the art weirds me out a bit. Try as I might, I can't keep a straight face picture all these dead-pan bishounen as the legendary heroes. Granted, this is probably because I've always been read stories of the monkey king while I was growing up, but it doesn't settle properly with me. No matter. The story is angsty enough with pretty enough animation to be it worth watching. It actually turned out to be a massively popular show in Japan, which is understandable. You do have to give Kazuya Minekura credit for whipping up such a wildly creative story. Overall, it's one of those series that one could potentially disregard or fall in love with. Either way, it's at least worth the rental.

Perishable Item

Super Duper Sumos Vol. #3: Deep Sushi
ADV Films 95 min. 3/? $14.98 04/29/2003

I know it's unfair for me to always throw kids shows into this category, but to be quite fair, most of the people here are above the age of twelve, right? Granted, there's some kids shows that I adore (read: Little Snow Fairy Sugar!), but some other stuff I think is best to be left on the shelf. Super Duper Sumos is one such show. When I first saw it, my interest was piqued, as I expected it to be wildly funny and full of great one-liner quotes. Well, after the first few moments, I began to realize that we're showing this stuff to our kids? Honestly, this is not just a bias against kid shows. I personally do not think that it is healthy for kids to sit in front of the TV and watch characters crack butt jokes all day. Believe me, I'm one of the least conservative people you'll meet, but back in my day, we watched stuff like He-Man and the Care Bears, stuff that taught you about friendship and teamwork and stuff. The last time I checked, the only thing Super Duper Sumos really teaches is to make butt jokes and learn that fat guys in thongs is funny (okay, it's a little funny). In this set of episodes, the characters have to deal with a bunch of random stuff, like giant tadpoles and gargantuan squids and what not. I'll have to admit that if you watch an episode every now and then, it's pretty funny. Just not all at once. The one thing that's really appealing about the show is the use of colors. I mean, they're so bright and vibrant! What's not to love about it? It just makes the show look pretty. But appealing to the eyes or not, maybe you should consider showing your kids something more… educational?

Well, that's it for this week! Sorry for the delay—once our two weeks of finals are over, I'll be back to my normal coherent self again. Thanks for reading!

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