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Shelf Life
Rug Weaving 211

by Bamboo Dong,
Welcome to this week's installment of Shelf Life where I will fill up space with blog-like personal introspection with numerous intimate details of my life, and then tell you all to buy Animatrix. Actually, I lied. This week I'm going to switch it up and do the opposite by talking about something that doesn't relate to me whatsoever and contains no details about my life. Hence, Argentinean rug weaving. Did you know that Argentina is the largest producer of carpet wool next to New Zealand? Since the 1960s, however, nylon has vastly replaced wool in the United States rug industry, even though imported wool is still popular. Because of production costs, the US also uses materials like polyesters and acrylics. This not only makes the rugs cheaper to make, but also makes them last longer. Of course, people are buying the rugs, but purist collectors fear that the woolen rug industry may eventually be driven out of business. I suppose a parallel could be drawn from the anime industry with the replacement of painted cels by digital cels. This doesn't faze many anime enthusiasts, but for cel collectors, this is a huge disappointment. I collect cels too, and it's kind of a weird feeling knowing that I'll never own any cels from most of my new favorite series. Oh well, I suppose every downside has an upside. Anime comes out faster, and it takes less manpower to produce. I guess only time can tell what happens to the anime industry. Until then, there will always be new anime releases, so I welcome you to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Warner 90 min. 1/1 $24.98 06/03/2003

With the hype surrounding the theatrical release of the Matrix: Reloaded, fans of the movies can further satisfy their cravings with the highly-anticipated issue of Animatrix. A collection of nine shorts written by the Wachowski brothers, the episodes are a great blend of the two cultures that influenced each other for both the movie and the anime. Featuring work by acclaimed directors like Mahiro Maeda and Shinichiro Watanabe, Animatrix is a feast for both the mind and eyes. Although a few of the episodes were already made available on the Animatrix website, the rest of the shorts are worth buying the DVD for. With stories ranging from the history of the Matrix to releasing more people from the Matrix, the approximately ten-minute episodes are an interesting medium for learning more about the world that the Wachowskis created. One of my personal favorites is Detective Story, a visual masterpiece that skillfully uses color and sound to create a distinct atmosphere for the story. In fact, all of the episodes are wonderfully animated. However, just because a vast majority of the shorts are good doesn't mean that they all hit the same plane of excellence. In fact, a couple of them are rather disappointing, personally, whether for the story, the character design, or other aspect. Regardless, it's a unique disc to own and all fans of the Matrix should at least check it out once. For the fans that do add this DVD to your collection, you'll be rewarded with a huge stockpile of extras to peruse over. Of course, with all the fluid animation and intriguing stories, you shouldn't need any other reason to buy Animatrix.

City Hunter: Bay City Wars & Million Dollar Conspiracy
ADV Films 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 06/03/2003

Reaching back into the 90s, ADV brings out two City Hunter OVAs that will please any fan of Ryo and his ladies man skills. Sporting surprisingly fluid animation and packed with humor, these two installments of City Hunter represent how good the show can get. The first OVA is about a Central American tyrant who wants to use an American supercomputer to destroy the US in the ultimate form of irony. Packed with gunplay and excitement, it's an action-packed way to spend 45 minutes. The second OVA plays up more on Ryo's girl-loving tendencies as he takes on a job to protect a beautiful woman who harbors her own secrets. While both OVAs are very different from each other in terms of story and plot devices, they're both exciting to watch and give insight to each character and what drives their actions. To make the whole deal even sweeter, the disc comes with an extra TV episode. If you've ever liked City Hunter before, this DVD is something you can't pass up.

Rune Soldier Vol. #2: Adventures for Dummies
ADV Films 100 min. 2/6 $29.98 06/03/2003

Rune Soldier continues to be one of the most fun and exciting fantasy series out right now as it hits the second volume of the series. In this DVD, viewers get the entertainment of watching the characters battle with zombies, each other, and… wait, an old fiancée? Where did he come from? I can't say that the story has a really defined goal yet, but the adventures the characters have along the way are certainly entertaining. Besides, I'm definitely digging the animation and the pretty pictures. The character designs are really rocking my world, and the whole clarity of all the art...Rune Soldier is earning my praise. Humor, adventure, mystery, pretty faces—buy it and check it out for yourself.

Rental Shelf

Eden's Bowy Vol. #1 (also w/box)
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98/39 06/03/2003

Eden's Bowy has so much potential—but for now, things look rather mediocre for the show. Starting off with a very interesting premise, the show quickly dies down into something much more mundane, random, and just downright slow. As legend has it, the world was ruled by a ruthless and unrelenting god. He made humanity miserable, but one day, a God Hunter was born who retaliated on behalf of the humans. Anyway, the god ended up dispersing himself into a veil of mist that covered the land, from which other gods grew, though not as evil as the first one. Fast forward in time to see the present world where a very strict caste system is in place. The people live agrarian lifestyles while floating cities rule over them. Enter some kid named Yorn who may or may not be the next God Hunter. He meets up with some mysterious elf girl and before he knows it, his whole life is flopped upside down. All of this sounds exciting, doesn't it? It's a shame that this happens all very quickly, and what are left over are Yorn and the elf wandering down a road for episodes on end. So like I said, the opening premise sounds very promising—hopefully the show will get better. And speaking of openings, Eden's Bowy has what is quite possibly the cutest, catchiest theme song I've heard since I caught my first whiff of Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat, so that's definitely a reason to check out the series. In addition, the art is rather interesting, making use of a lot of earthy colors as opposed to the neon-bright primary colors endorsed by a lot of contemporary anime series. Either way, it's something that looks like it has a bit of promise. Until you find out for sure, though, I'd recommend a rental, if only just for the opening.

Blue Submarine No. 6 Special Edition
Bandai Entertainment 1/1 $34.98 06/03/2003

If you already bought Blue Submarine, I can't fathom any reason why you'd want to buy it again. If you don't already have it, though, and you like it enough to buy it, then this is definitely the cheapest way to go. With all four OVAs collected onto a three-disc set along with a slew of DVD extras, it's definitely cheaper than the original release format of having one episode per disc. Depicting the story of a future where the ice caps have melted and much of the Earth is entrenched in water, Blue Sub features the efforts of a submarine crew and its quest to save mankind from the nefarious plans of ocean-creatures who want to destroy humanity. What marked this OVA series at the time of its release wasn't its story, however. It was the then novel concept of mixing cel animation with CGI graphics that caught the attention of fandom. Although the contrast is a bit jarring at times, the animation quality is still well done. I've personally never been a huge fan of Blue Sub, harboring a dislike for the cel vs. CGI contrast and the rather blasé story, but there are many more people out there that swear that this OVA is one of the best things ever made. Ultimately though, it's still one of those series that are good to see at least once, so to all you people out there who haven't yet experienced this series, a rental is definitely in order.

Argento Soma Vol. #3
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 3/6 $29.98 06/03/2003

Argento Soma started out as a really interesting show for me, as I was interested in where the story would go, and whether any of the questions brought up would ever be resolved. As I watched the third volume, I realized with a sinking feeling that the story wasn't going to go anywhere anytime soon, and that even the writers probably didn't even know the answers to all my questions. In this volume, a bigger, badder alien comes to Earth, enveloping the protagonists with troubles and walls of personal angst. In the meantime, Ryu takes a dip into the personal introspection pool, only to leave audiences a tad chilled at the shallowness of the revelations he comes up with. While the story is evaporating quickly and the writing is getting more haphazard, the artistic aspects of Argento Soma are still just as good as they ever were. The animation gives grace to the quirky character designs, making the show at least something that is fun to watch in those late night hours when your eyes start to cross and your mind starts to glaze over. I'm still holding my breath for this series, though, as there's a possibility that it could save itself in time. Until then, I wouldn't invest any more money in this show other than the two bucks needed for a quick rental.

Dragon Ball Z Box Set 8: Babidi Box Set
Funimation Productions 8/? $57.95 06/03/2003

Touting what has to be one of the most comical covers I've ever seen on a DBZ boxset, the eighth box contains the entire Babidi saga. In this set of episodes, our heroes have to battle Babidi and his lackeys to prevent the resurrection of Majin Buu. I'll admit that it's not amongst what I consider to be the most enjoyable sagas, but it's interesting enough to watch. The story is far weaker in this saga than some of its predecessors, but there are some interesting parts here and there. With Dragon Ball Z being such a long series, it's nice that Funimation has split the series up by saga and offers them at a nice, convenient price. If you enjoyed these episodes, it might be something you'll want to buy, but if you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend that you rent it first. There are some good DBZ sagas, but this isn't one of the best.

Dragon Ball: King Piccolo Box Set 2
Funimation Productions 2/? $39.95 06/03/2003

Presenting the second part of the King Piccolo saga, viewers get to see all the Dragon Ball heroes after they've been beaten to a bloody pulp. Piccolo has summoned the Eternal Dragon, but if the unconscious people scattered here and there can't get muster up the energy to stop him, the consequences won't be pretty. I can't say that I like this set better than the first. The whole fallen-heroes-that-get-magically-resurrected thing never really rocked my boat much, as the story follows the same pattern every time such events happen. Regardless, if you enthusiastically watched the first bit of the King Piccolo set, then you might as well continue onward with it. Dragon Ball is a rather fun production, and with the energetic characters and faster pacing, it's something that all Toriyama fans have to check out.

Inu Yasha Vol. #06
Viz Inc. 75 min. 6/? $24.98 06/03/2003

This brings us to the fan-favorite Inu Yasha, a series that diehard fans will end up filling rows of shelves with and withdrawing over $750 for, all because of the ingenious, money-sucking marketing tactics endorsed by Viz. But hey, it could be worse. After all, I remember the good old VHS days when some companies released two episodes per tape at thirty bucks a pop. In this volume of Inu Yasha, the patterned story line gets jostled by introducing a monk named Miroku, who, in a wave of suspense and surprise, is also after the Jewel. Well, he does manage to get a hold of the Jewels and now Inu Yasha has to go retrieve them. Can he succeed? With well over seventy episodes left in the series to go, will he be able to retrieve the Jewels or will they be lost in the horrible clutches of Miroku forever? Honestly, Inu Yasha is something I like to watch at a pace of maybe two episodes per week. Anything more than that gets highly repetitive for me, so it's probably a good thing that Viz is releasing the episodes at the rate it is. In any case, it wouldn't harm you to rent these three episodes, so if Inu Yasha is your thing, but you're too poor to fork over your bank account and first born child to collect the series, a rental will be perfect for you.

Ronin Warriors OVA Vol. #2
Bandai Entertainment 2/2 $29.98 06/03/2003

I wasn't very fond of the randomness of the first OVA volume, but I'm getting used to it. In this last volume, two side stories are presented—one chronicles the discovery of an ancient book that transcribes the history of the Ronin Warriors—centuries before they even happen! Then, following the trend of the week, some mysterious girl pops up and tries to give them what they all desire. The side stories are rather pointless, but nevertheless, fans will be glad to see their beloved characters once again. The animation's pretty sweet, so that helps the case, too. Unless you've seen the TV series though, these episodes will mean virtually nothing to you and end up being nothing other than story filler nonsense. At times like these, the rental store is your friend.

Perishable Items

Spectral Force
ADV Films 50 min. 1/1 $29.98 06/03/2003

I was really excited when I read this week's list of releases, thinking that there would be nothing in the Perishable Items list. And then I stumbled upon this. What is this?!?! I don't know! Do you? In a world far away, in a time years in the distance, three races exist in precarious balance—Humans, Gods, and Demons. One day, one of the Gods pull a magical sword out of nowhere and tell the humans that it has the power to kill the demon king. Purportedly, after the demons are all gone, the Humans can live in happy misery slaving under the tyrannical wrath of the Gods, until a sequel creates some magical human who can destroy gods with a magical Stick of Power. Well, before you know it, an all-out war is launched between the Humans and the Demons. In comes some half-demon, half-human chick who turns out to be the second daughter of the demon king (apparently the demon king like humans tolerably enough to procreate with one). Her job is to overcome her hatred of humans to work with them in saving demons. Right… As interesting as the story may seem, rest assured, it's not. After the two episodes are finished, viewers are left with a hollow feeling in their bosoms, realizing that virtually nothing was accomplished in those fifty minutes that were sucked from their lives. Luckily, some bad shows have visually stunning looks that compensate for the impossibly thin story, right? Alas, this is not one of those. The CGI sequences used in this show are abominable, clashing horrendously with the equally bad cel animation. If my eyes could scream in pain, they would emit harpy-like yelps that would waken the entire neighborhood. The fact that the show is based on a video game can be neglected—there are simply not enough scapegoats in this world to make up for how bad this title is.

Anyway, that's it for this week. And yes, Wolverine could take out Neo any day.

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