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Shelf Life
All Shiny and New

by Bamboo Dong,
As I sat down in front of my beloved Toshiba Satellite, I whipped open my Microsoft Word and cranked up my Winamp. As I sat there chilling out to the horde of Russian music I had ripped earlier that week to procrastinate studying for my finals as long as I possibly could, I stared at the screen eagerly. Nothing came to mind. Giving up on that, I tilted my screen and blinked at it from a different angle. Nope. I wiggled my fingers in anticipation over my keyboard, scowled at my blank document, and then pointed to the menu bar with a loud “AHA!” Complete blank. Turns out, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write for my introduction. Thankfully, things like Instant Messenger let you talk to people you'd never have the opportunity to talk to otherwise, so I clicked open a dialogue box to a friend and typed in the command, “Gimme a topic.” The last time I did this, he offered me with the idea of Greek mythology, which worked out rather well. After declining anything war related, I settled on his next suggestion, 80s music. I went over to Google and typed in ‘80s music’ for inspiration, and came up with a list of top 40 songs for every year. Carefully selecting my birth year, I browsed the list. BAM. Number one song: Like a Virgin, by Madonna.

It is an established fact for me that I love this song, and that Madonna is insanely cool. It is also a fact that I don't really understand the lyrics to this song. She's found love for the first time; okay, fine, I get that. Because of that, she's like a virgin touched for the very first time. That's where I get lost. By giving value to something she holds precious to something she must have thrown away recklessly before, that's not saying much for the guy. It would only make him feel special if what she lost was precious to her the first time. Which means that the first time she was touched, she must have felt the same way, all shiny and new, and all ready to give her heart away. This negates her argument that she felt love for the first time, because the emotion she equated it to has already been felt before. Okay, okay, I know I'm arguing semantics here, but I honestly don't understand the logistics of the song. Yet, despite that, I still love the song, and my friends and I still sing it at the top of our lungs when it's played. This is something I'm sure everyone else does—everyone has songs that they love, even though they know the lyrics are messed up. Take Komm Süsser Tod for example, one of the best loved songs in anime fandom. The lyrics are about suicide, yet everyone I know, including me, sings it with a happy face and cheerful clapping. Why? Because the music is happy. I listen to Japanese music and Russian music without understanding a large majority of the lyrics. What about you? Do you find yourself loving music that you don't understand, listening to lyrics you can't translate or that contradict the music, or words that you can't relate to? Me too. Does that make me weird, or just normal? Well, regardless, that seems like enough of an introduction. Welcome to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Saint Tail Vol. #6
Tokyopop 300 min. 6/6 $69.99 05/13/2003

The wait is finally over! For all the Saint Tail fans out there, Tokyopop has graced us with the last installation of the series, and boy, is it good. Coming as a three-disc set, the box includes the last twenty-one episodes, which is convenient for those of you who want that last quick fix. It goes without saying, though, that the way Tokyopop has released the series is pretty bizarre. Throughout the entire series, the number of episodes per disc has been extremely erratic, ranging from three to seven, even though all of them have carried the same price tag. Despite the convenience of having the last three discs packaged together, viewers might balk at the amount of money that they have to shell out all at once. Rest be assured—it's well worth it. Although the entire series follows the same basic formula for every episode, it has never been tiresome for me. The animation is always fresh, for the most part, and when they do use the same sequences over and over again, the layers and backgrounds are at least altered so that things don't get tedious. In the last three discs of Saint Tail, Meimi has to deal with a host of troubles, like people finding out her identity, and normal school things like boys and what not. She'll also have to decide whether or not keeping her identity a secret is really worth it, and if the risks are worth taking. With the cute premise of the show combined with adventure enough to pique almost anyone's interest, Saint Tail is one shoujo series I can't get enough of. The music is adorable, combining perky beats with slow ballads, and mixed with the sweet atmosphere of the series, it makes the whole experience one that leaves you feeling nothing but happiness. If you haven't seen this series yet, I recommend that you start.

Chobits Vol. #2: City of Silence
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 2/6 $29.98 05/13/2003

More interesting things about Chii continue to be revealed in the second volume of Chobits, brought to you by the kind folks at Pioneer. Even though fanservice continues to saturate the series, the show begins to steer towards its theme of mankind and its dependence and relationship with technology. In this volume, Chii's exposure to the book about the lost city is explored, as is the beginnings of her dark side. Developing her character more in this volume than in the first one, this is a good one to watch just to see her personality unfold. As in the first volume, the animation remains fluid, bringing Clamp's beautiful artwork to the surface perfectly. What else would give the cuteness (and somewhat mystical) factor more oomph than it already has? The music, of course, varying between the sweet opening to the pensive (okay, I think it's creepy) music that plays whenever the lost city is brought up. Chobits is an extremely popular show both here and in Japan and watching it makes one realize why that's the case. Granted, many would say that it's the fanservice that has so many guys hooked, but there are plenty of other reasons to watch the series. The characters are fun to watch as they grow, and even though Chii's admittedly dumb antics make me wince at times, they serve as a solid base for the series. It certainly looks like the series is headed in a positive direction, so now would be a good time to hop into it.

GTO Vol. #08
Tokyopop 100 min. 8/10 $29.98 05/13/2003

Wow, if I had even half the good luck that Onizuka has, I'd be a happy person for the rest of my life. Of course, I'd rather not take the bad luck that normally precedes his good fortune. Picture this: he's 8 million yen in debt, which is generally a bad thing for anyone. He goes off and enters in a raffle, and wins a Mercedes Benz, which is worth much more than a measly 8 million yen, so he can pay his debt off. Of course, things are never simple for him, and obstacles stand in his way of doing anything, but of course, that's why we watch GTO. There are also other things in store for him, such as his meeting up with an old friend of his and dealing with someone's elopement. With two more volumes to go in this series, there is still no defined story. For the most part, everything has been comprised of mini-stories and pointless filler, but with the energy coursing through the series, this hasn't been a problem. The characters are still fun to watch, even if their hijinks seem a bit more tame than when they started out. Either way, it's still fun to watch. I'm curious to find out whether or not the show will actually take hold of an aim within the next several episodes, but if not, I can't say that I'll be heavily disappointed. GTO is one lively show, and I'm eager to see what will happen next, even if it's inconsequential.

Noir Vol. #3
ADV Films 100 min. 3/7 $29.98 05/13/2003

Noir steps up the pacing a little in the third volume of the series as its strays away from the overtly abundant symbolism and settles on just driving the plot forward. Things get interesting when the girls get a call to take someone out, only to find that he's already been killed. Also, another dangerous lady by the name of Chloe is added to the mix, and boy, is she cool. Even though we're almost halfway through the series, I still can't help but be blown away by Yuki Kajiura's music. The eerie melodies never fail to give the scenes an added element of intrigue, and it truly fascinates me the way series can have slow chanting music during scenes of violence. Fans who were a little intimidated by the slow pacing of Noir will be pleased with this volume, as the sequences happen much faster without dwelling on certain aspects of the plot. With the story being pushed forwards, it's surprising that the characters still have time to develop, but that's added into the mix equally well. So far, I like this volume more than the two preceding it, so if you've liked Noir up until now, you can't afford to quit.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga Collection
Central Park Media 325 min. 1/1 $99.99 05/13/2003
Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #6: The Beginning of the End
Central Park Media 75 min. 6/10 $29.99 05/13/2003

Remember the good old days when Utena was released seven episodes at a time for only $39.99? Remember how thrilled you were when you realized that you could watch the first thirteen episodes all at once for only $80? Remember how happy you were when Central Park Media started releasing the Black Rose Saga, followed up by the disappointment you felt when you realized that you had to buy it three episodes a time for $29.99? Well, for all those people who waited, you can now get episodes 14-26 (13 episodes!) for $99.99. Granted, this is $20 more than the first season, but it's better than buying the discs individually. At least the people who bought every disc separately can be consoled with the knowledge that it was worth it, and with the last three episodes of the season being released, it's still worth it. With the second season drawing to a close, Utena must fight her toughest rival. What's interesting about it are the thought processes that go through her head. Giving insight into the series, as well as the characters, the last volume of the saga is something that all Utena fans have been waiting for. I enjoyed the first season, but the second season blew me away. If you haven't started watching Utena yet, you'd better rush to catch up.

Rental Shelf

Brigadoon Vol. #1: Marin and Melan Blue
Tokyopop 125 min. 1/6 $29.99 05/13/2003

After the initial wave of amusement passed in my head about the lead character, Marin, looking like Detective Conan, I settled down to watch the show and immerse myself in what soon became befuddlement. Marin is a 13 year old that comes from a rather poor family. After she received an award from her school, she's attacked out of nowhere by this bio-weapon-robot-angsty-sharp-thing called a Monomakia. Luckily for her, another bio-not-so-angsty-robot-thing named Melan shows up to protect her. Havoc is wreaked—everywhere. So now this girl has an over-protective robot thing following her around, and a bunch of Monomakia's out to get her. These things won't stop at whatever it is they're trying to do, and send all sorts of lackeys to do their bidding, like sniper robots and what not. Naturally, if you've got big evil things of mass destruction following you around dishing out property damage and emotional duress, people are going to get suspicious and blame you for it. That's pretty much Brigadoon in a nutshell—and I haven't even begun. Surprisingly, the show's just as angsty as the robots are. Marin has a host of problems she has to deal with, such as people making fun of her family's financial status, her friendships and the instances of love in her life—robots are only a fraction of her life. Through the events, Marin's character is slowly developed to the point that the story seems interesting just because of her. She's a strong person, and the crap she has to deal with makes it a very heartfelt story about friendship, bullies, finding herself, and all those other things. The problem? Well, nothing is really explained in the series at all. The logic as to why the events happen the way they do escapes mention, leaving viewers with a somewhat hollow feeling inside. The series definitely has potential, but hopefully things will get some explanations soon.

New Angel Vol. #1
SoftCel Pictures 75 min. 1/2 $29.98 05/13/2003

I had heard of this five episode series a while ago, but every time I read one of the box descriptions, I thought to myself that it would be the worst excuse for hentai ever. The same carries for the description for the DVD as well. Well, luckily, the descriptions have absolutely nothing to do the actual series, which is kind of a shame for the box, because the real story makes the DVD much more appealing than what's written. Keisuke has been friends with a girl named Shizuka for as long as he can remember, but when they hit high school, he realized that she's turned out to be really hot. All he can think about is making love to her, but he doesn't know how to go about getting there. Interestingly enough, he has the opportunity to get with a large number of women (and he does), but all he wants is Shizuka. What's great about this series is the situations that he goes through to try to be with his friend, and also the encounters he has with the other women in his life who will do anything to get him. Although the story line isn't particularly creative, the way it's written really makes it fun to watch. Some of the lines that the characters pull out are hysterical, and the range of women that Keisuke ends up with each have an interesting scenario attached to them (ghosts, suicidal jumpers, tennis-enthusiast maids). Based from the manga by the man responsible for series like Sakura Diaries, the sex is pretty graphic, which is something that may affect your decision to watch it, either positively or negatively. My one main complaint is the character design. Although all of the characters look generically good, they all look the same, with the exception of hair color and clothing. Either way, the dialogue is the real gem, so if you can stand a bit of perverse humor and rampant sex, this might be a fun DVD to watch with friends.

Nightmare Campus Vol. #2
Central Park Media 40 min. 2/5 $29.99 05/13/2003

Despite the erotic nature of the series, Nightmare Campus is not one of those shows that will elicit screams from passersby of “ooh! Porn!!!!!” In fact, with the exception of the nudity and sketchy scenes, it's more like your average horror and suspense show. In this volume, one of the character's struggles against a demon possession is explored further, along with other sinister things like gang warfare and demon resurrections. All told, it's pretty interesting stuff. I mean, with the exception of the naked girls running around and getting prodded by demons, it's a pretty straight-forward horror show. Warning though, it gets pretty gruesome. If the cover's any indication, just be warned that it's more graphic in the show.

Devil Lady Vol. #4: The Gathering
ADV Films 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 05/13/2003

As Devil Lady passes the half-way point, the characters continue dealing with the same issues they've been grappling with in the last volume. Jun further learns to cope with the beast within her, as well as the dark side is continually growing inside her mind. In the meantime, she needs to face the question of whether or not her life is worth risking to save those around her. As the series progresses, as does the amount of nudity and blood in the series, transforming it into something more pronouncedly Gō Nagai-ish than before. While the animation quality doesn't seem to be improving any, it's not getting any worse. Overall, it's just more of what viewers have been seeing in the series so far. If you've been watching Devil Lady, then you might as well continue. As the series prepares for the end, more and more plots are being revealed, and the characters' relationships with one another are tested harder than ever. Since you've come so far in the series, you can't stop now. As for the newcomers, if dark, bloody anime appeals to you, Devil Lady is something you'll want to check out.

Descendants of Darkness: Tarot Curse
Central Park Media 75 min. 3/? $29.99 05/13/2003

For some reason, this volume left me with a rather disappointed feeling. Whereas the series normally deals with spirits and vampires, the self-contained 3-episode story that was featured in this volume dealt more with freaky murders—something you'd find on a Fox series. The duo find themselves on a cruise ship where a string of murders take place. The only clue they have is a tarot card. It's not that the DVD is bad; it's just that it doesn't fit the standards set by the preceding volumes. Thankfully, the aspects that the series is noted for are still there, with the fluid animation and the beautiful artwork. The only thing that is left to be desired is a more solid plot, and a less primetime Fox ala X-Files or Freaky Links feeling. For all the bishounen lovers out there though, there's plenty of pretty boys in this volume to make you happy for a while. If you're planning on collecting the entire series, then you may as well buy this, but if you're just picking and choosing between the volumes, then this is something you might want to rent first to see if it appeals to your palette.

Perishable Items

Ushio & Tora: The Complete Collection
ADV Films 275 min. 1/1 $39.98 05/13/2003

This is one of those shows that so stupid it's cute. Ultimately, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not. When I was watching this, all I could think about was Inu Yasha, whose later release date killed that idea. Despite the fact that Ushio & Tora came first, I can still equate the two together and recommend for you to see Inu Yasha instead. The plot of this OVA series is somewhat interesting. Ushio's ancestry traces back clearly to centuries ago, including an ancestor who fought against a demon beast with a mystical Chinese spear. Unable to kill the demon, he managed to pin it to a rock, around which he built a shrine. Fast forward 500 years to Ushio, who refuses to believe the legend, until he wanders into a part of the family shrine's basement he's never seen before. Lo and behold, he finds a hairy looking creature who he names Tora, Japanese for tiger. Here the comedy begins, for starting now, every few minutes is punctuated with Tora's voiced desire to eat Ushio. The breaking of Tora's seal brings forth a whole swarm of other monsters that he and the boy help fight (since Tora won't come near Ushio as long as he has the ancient spear by his side). The story is pretty violent, and involves a slew of impalings and lacerations that are vividly shown in the art's vibrant coloration. Despite this, the story is able to remain funny, although the jokes get re-hashed often and have a tendency to get old very quickly. Although the story is interesting to watch, it's not something I would readily recommend to anyone. Simply put, it's just not that good. Everything about it is mediocre, even the story, which would have done so much better had it been given the time and energy to develop further. The animation fits the purpose, but is nothing to coo over, given the number of “slash-effect” stills the action scenes relied upon. If the story interests you, you might be better off with Inu-Yasha. Other than that, there's nothing much else here to be offered.

Casshan: Robot Hunter
ADV Films 100 min. 1/2 $24.98 05/13/2003

For all the excitement that the story could have, it's pretty boring. Consisting of four episodes, it condenses the television series that was made in the 70s into a rushed bundle of snores. Some of the world's best scientists created a race of androids to save the Earth's environment. The robots decide that in order to save the Earth, they have to take over the humans, so they rise up in rebellion and make the humans their slaves. The only person that can save them is Casshan, the “Robot Hunter.” In a twist of angst and irony, he's haunted by his father's spirit, who helped build the androids, and also his dead mother, and other people who are there only to amplify what would classify as torment if only there were more emotions in this OVA. Dragged out from Harmony Gold's pile o' stuff, this release just isn't worth watching. The concept of the show is interesting, but unfortunately, it's poorly carried out. If you want to watch man versus machine action, just watch the Matrix.

Professor Pain
Central Park Media 60 min. 1/1 $29.99 05/13/2003

In my personal opinion, this title is just plain sick. I like to think I'm pretty jaded when it comes to hentai, but this really stretched the limit for me. Female viewers may very well be offended as “Professor Pain” goes out of his way to torture, humiliate, and degrade every woman in his class. This is something that could only be enjoyed by fans of sadism and masochism. Granted, the professor does have reasons to do what he does, but the scenes still made me cringe. To give you a taste of some of the things that are in here, the professor stripped one of the girls in his class and forced her to urinate in a test tube. The same man encouraged the guys in his class to rape one of the girls, and even stuck one of his female students in her lower parts full of needles. That's sick and disgusting. I realize I should give all anime titles a fair shake, but this one just didn't settle with me at all. If pain and sadomasochism is your thing, you will love this title. If not, I wouldn't recommend it at all.

That's the end of this week. Until next time, have fun, and good luck on all your finals!

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