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Shelf Life
Suffering through finals

by Bamboo Dong,
After a hectic week of writing papers, studying for finals, and a healthy dose of procrastination, I managed to tear myself away from undamped forced vibrations, Laplace transforms, glycosidic linkage, and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 to write last week's Shelf Life. In fact, it's so behind that I just took out some of the highlights of last week so I could get cracking on this week's Shelf Life, while juggling my second week of finals. On the positive side, I've made one of those self-reflecting discoveries that one reads about in works labeled as existentialist, or movies labeled as pretentious. On the downside, the realization I made was that I don't know how to study, and have never known how. This was something that began to worry me when I took my first midterms in college. When it came time to take a test, the only thing I could do was read over my notes or skim through the text book. Then I looked at the people around me. Some kid had books and papers spread all over a table. He was flipping through the book, cross-checking it with something in his notes, comparing it to something in one of his note cards—making progress. Me? I read the notes again. Obviously there's something I'm doing wrong, because I find myself staring at tests blankly, wondering how it's possible to sit through three hour finals and still not have enough time to think clearly. You wouldn't think such a trivial thing would be life-shattering for me, but it is. All through high school, school has been easy for me, and the good grades came rolling in for me with virtually no effort on my behalf. In fact, my good grades landed me into this school—and here I hit an impasse. I feel like I've hit a brick wall in my quest for higher education. I made it this far, managed to fool people into thinking that I was smart, and now the joke's on me. But I digress. Such musings are only interesting to the people who are doing the musing, so allow me to present you with last week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Fancy Lala DVD 6: A Passing Dream
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 6/6 $24.98 05/06/2003

With Fancy Lala hitting its final volume, the series swings to a surprising and satisfying close. LaLa prepares for her first concert, but in the meantime, Miho has to deal with her sister's romance problems. To make matters worse, she's lost her magic notebook and pen. Well, the ending definitely came as a surprise, though on hindsight, it really couldn't have happened any other way. This is one of those volumes in which you realize that if there was one goal the series had hoped to achieve, it rests in the last few episodes. Interesting life lessons are beheld, and messages are delivered to the audience. Without meaning to sound the least bit sappy, I can say that the last episodes exude of a kind of hope that viewers will find charming. Of course, it also helps that even until the last episode, the animation has remained relatively fluid, bringing out the liveliness of Tomomi Mochizuki's characters and scenes. If you've been following Fancy Lala up until now, this is a release that you have to run out and buy. For all you others, this is definitely one of the best shoujo series being released in the US right now, so you may as well start watching.

You're Under Arrest Mini-Specials DVD
ADV Films 150 min. 1/1 $29.98 05/06/2003

You're Under Arrest fans: rejoice and celebrate until the sun peeks at dawn. The YUA mini-specials are finally out on DVD and it's something you have to see in order to be able to call yourself a fan of the series. With 20 short episodes on the disc, the scenes are filled with hysterical antics and fresh laughs. Including scenarios ranging from panty-raiding thieves to peeping toms, the DVD is filled with everything from your standard slapstick to lewd humor. That's certainly nothing new in the world of anime, but with this set of mini specials, it's just plain well done. There's nothing to brag about in the animation realm, with its standard fluidity and sometimes jerky pans, but it's definitely the characters that are the real gem. The situations they manage to get in, and the way they worm out of them are guaranteed to make you laugh at least twice. For all you potentially jaded fans out there, twice isn't bad.

RahXephon DVD 2: Tonal Pattern
ADV Films 125 min. 2/7 $29.98 05/06/2003

Sporting what is possibly the weirdest looking cover I've seen this month, RahXephon continues with more mind-numbing plot twists and insanely fluid animation. As the Mu launch wave after wave of attacks against the world, they need to bust out the RahXephon in order to have a fighting chance. In the meantime, there's mysterious people running amok, and questions of time are being thrown into the air when things and places from the past are being resurrected again. RahXephon is definitely one of those shows that you watch thinking, my goodness… the animation is dynamic. The character designs? Astounding. The music? Beautiful… And yet—I don't get it. Undoubtedly, more is revealed as the series progresses, and in all fairness, the events that transpire are explained thoroughly, but so much is thrown out that it takes a while to process. Interestingly enough, the pacing of the series itself is rather slow, so even though the events are happening at a fast rate, the actual series is barely moving. Either way, it's definitely one of the hottest series this year. If you like big robot shows and want to see a good one, RahXephon is at the head of its class.

Sakura Wars OAV Collection DVD
ADV Films 300 min. 1/1 $49.98 05/06/2003

Previously, the problem with the Sakura Wars OAVs was that in order to understand any of them, you pretty much had to watch all the series preceding them. Or, you could just be familiar with the video game. Well, ADV managed to solve the problem the first way, by combining all three OVA series into one convenient OVA collection. What's great about the OVAs is that even if you haven't played the video game, it can still be a thoroughly entertaining experience. For the most part, the episodes concentrate on the characters, rather than the fighting that they do. This gives the series much more strength, as well as set the stage for the TV series. To give a run down of the plot, though, the world is on the verge of yet another Demon War. To fight them, a group of beautiful and talented women are assembled to be the Spirit Warriors. I have a mild issue with the year that they chose to have the story take place in, because it makes the series have a ludicrous amount of anachronisms, but such complaints are just trivial whining. The art is beautiful, and while some of the characters will grate certain people the wrong way, it's still an excellent example of how a game-to-series conversion should be done. If you played the game, or just want to see some good old game anime, this is the thing for you.

Rental Shelf

Please Teacher! DVD 1: Hot for Teacher (& Limited Edition)
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 1/4 $29.98/$59.98 05/06/2003

“Maybe I should go to hell, but I'm doing well. Teacher needs to see me after school.” Please Teacher!, known also as Onegai! Teacher, is the latest new release brought to you by Bandai. Before I say anything about the series, allow me to gush over the packaging of the Limited Edition. I remember back in the day when I thought selling art boxes was cool, but as for Bandai, their marketing department stuns my mind out of the water. It is an established fact that they have the coolest limited edition sets ever seen, and it'll be awhile before anyone ever catches up to them. For their limited release of Please Teacher!, it comes with an art box to hold the entire series, the first DVD volume, a mini-manga (yeah, you heard me right), the first soundtrack CD, and a set of postcards. While the special set comes at a steep price, all of the goods it comes with is definitely a good argument as to why you should shell out an extra thirty dollars, or less, depending on what retailer you choose to go to. As far as the actual series goes, I won't lie to you and say that it's the best series being releases this year, because that would be a gross exaggeration. I'll just say this—it's fun to watch, depending on how cynical of a viewer you are. If you're one of those people who like to watch anime just for a good time, this will be a great release for you, combining shounen and romance with some good old science fiction. The main character is your normal everyday 18 year old student—except that he has some kind of disease that makes him look 15. (The actual plot device is explained in the anime, so you'd be better off with that.) He's walking around one day and runs into a mysterious sight—a really hot alien chick who looks just like a really hot human chick. In a classic shounen twist of events, she turns out to be his teacher and his neighbor. More twists necessary? Alright. He's the only person who knows that she's an alien, so in order to keep her secret, they decided to get married (this escapes my understanding, actually. Wouldn't it be a tad awkward to marry your teacher?). As can be discerned from just the plot synopsis itself, Please Teacher! is a pretty bizarre show, to say the least. Like I said before, though, it only works well if you're devoid of cynicism. If you have a streak of that in you, this series can be pretty hard to swallow. The series smacks of everything you think you've seen before, complete with the “misunderstandings” and lewd positions and fanservice. If you can stop rolling your eyes long enough to watch the show, though, it's pretty entertaining. Everything else about it is rather standard, including the music score, which is rather generic. Would you like this series? The only way to find out is to rent it.

Well, that was last week's Shelf Life. Stay tuned for this week's issue and wish me luck as I try my hardest not to fail engineering! (How horrible would it be if I flunked out of my major? Goodness.)

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