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Shelf Life
Bamboo in a Box

by Bamboo Dong,
I had a rather adventurous weekend, which I would like to share with you, if you would indulge me with a brief moment of your time. My laptop came to that time in every computer's life when its energy and will to live was just dying out, regardless of how top notch it is. Yes, it's that time of the year. Time to reformat. During the school year, I work as a Help Desk consultant so part of our duties involve helping others partition and flush out their C drives and make their computers all shiny and new again. Ergo, this should be a simple process. Well, I got a tip from a friend to use a program called Partition Magic, which would allow me to partition my hard drive without losing any information (as previously I was still using the ghetto FDISK method). All was fine and dandy and partitioned when in the midst of resizing a partition, the computer decided to glitch and erase my operating system in a brilliant tactical move called Screw You Over™. (For those of you less tech-savvy, this is pronounced “show” and can be used in the following ways: “My computer put on a SYO” or “My roommate's computer is sparking; let's go watch the SYO.”) Well, to cut out all the gory details and my valiant, bloody, heart-pounding actions, I ended up having to reinstall my windows. My partitions went bye-bye and everything was erased. “Ha! The joke's on you!” I screamed ruthlessly at my laptop, “I have a backup!” Imagine my amusement when I realized that my backup disc was irrevocably lost. I chuckled and gave my laptop a good-hearted slap on the lid. “Great job,” I said, “That was a nice SYO.”

And with that tale out of the way, I introduce you to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

NieA_7 Box Set
Pioneer Animation 325 min. 1/1 $79.98 07/01/2003

If you are a fan of Yoshitoshi ABe's works like Serial Experiments Lain or Haibane Renmei, then you will undoubtedly recognize the distinct character designs for his series Niea_7. Pronounced Niea Under Seven, the 13 episode series is now available in a boxset, released by Pioneer Animation. Unlike Lain's dark and morose atmosphere, Niea_7 is much more lighthearted and carefree, occasionally indulging in moments of slapstick comedy that would be unheard of in Lain. The story is about an everyday 18 year old girl named Mayuko who has a steady job, a nice apartment—oh wait, and an alien for a roommate. This odd roommate happens to be Niea, an “under” who belongs to the lowest caste of aliens. She's your requisite anime character that eats a lot and is confused by everyday societal things that we take for granted. The majority of the story focuses on the growing friendship between her and Mayuko, treading the terrains of insanely slow episodes all the way to hyper slapstick scenes. Despite the mostly positive and happy overtones of the series, it still doesn't display the bright and sugary colors you'd expect for such a series. Rather, its use of pastels and sketches are more demure like Haibane Renmei's rural shots. Although the series can be dreadfully boring at times, its ability to be fun at other times makes up for it, along with its beautiful artwork. This is truly a unique series, and if you're a fan of ABe, this is something you might want to check out.

Adventures of the Mini Goddesses - DVD Box Special
Pioneer Animation 400 min. 1/1 $79.98 07/01/2003

All the hopelessly cute episodes of the Adventures of the Mini Goddesses are now collected into one handy (though expensive) boxset! For fans of the Oh! My Goddess OVAs and movie, this may not be what you were expecting, but it's certainly a hilarious way to see your favorite characters again. Pretty much, the three goddesses have the ability to shrink to the size of their rat buddy Gan, and they run around having cute adventures all day. I know, I know, it sounds pretty pointless and I admit that it is, but that's what makes it so fun. The episodes are comprised of small 10 minute segments that document the characters doing everyday things, like starting a band, turning off the air conditioning, foraging for food—but in a bizarre, 3 inch way. There really is no way to explain this series without you locking me up somewhere (“yeah, like there's these really tiny chicks, right? Well, they're trying to turn off the air conditioning, but like, it's all snowing inside the room and stuff! And so they're climbing up rulers and desks and stuff, but the gigantic blizzard is all like, BAM! and knocks them on their butts, but then they take out a paperclip and scale up the chair, and then—“ *bang!* And there I would die). Just take my word for it—if you love things that are cute, you will get a massive kick out of the Mini Goddesses. If you're not sure, then well, give it a rental first, but this is something I'd definitely put on my shelf just to pull out and time and time again for a quick 10 minute laugh.

Rental Shelf

Maison Ikkoku Box Set 1
Viz, LLC. 300 min. 1/? $49.98 07/01/2003

Unlike most of those around me, I was never a big fan of Rumiko Takahashi. Perhaps it was because I didn't like the repetition in her longer series, or I didn't like her character design, or perhaps it just didn't fit my tastes, but one thing is certain—I like Maison Ikkoku. Of all her long series, this is the only one I can full-heartedly enjoy, and now that it's being released in cheap box set chunks, buying it is even easier. Like many of her other long series, the story is rather aimless in its long trek toward the goal and often reverts to the same tired patterned scenes repeatedly, but it's just one of those cute, feel-good series that you can laugh at without harming any brain cells in the process. The story involves a colorful cast of characters (who, interestingly enough, possess an even more quirky creative set of names) and their lives in Maison Ikkoku. Godai is a college kid who falls in love with the landlady, but he can never quite hook up with her, either because of his nosy neighbors or a rich, stuck-up git who is also after the beautiful landlady. Maison Ikkoku is your classic, timeless, and apply-anywhere romance story, full of emotions and comedy to brighten up your dull day. There are times when the annoying antics of the characters make you want to punt them upside the head and spray them with MSG, but alas, variety is the spice of life. The animation is rather subpar, especially since it's such a long series, but with such series, it's the dialogue that matters the most. I can't say that this will appeal to everyone, with its painful length and aimlessness, but it's worth at least a rental.

Angel Links Collectors Set
Bandai Entertainment 325 min. 1/1 $49.98 07/01/2003

Created by the same studio that did Outlaw Star, this series is also set in the same universe. However, unless you're a big fan of Outlaw Star and want to feel all warm and fuzzy about the character designs, I'd suggest that you'd stay away from this series until you've rented it. Quite frankly, the series is crap until about halfway through. To give a quick run-through of what we're dealing with, there's a 16-year old girl named Meifon who has an adorable cat that has wings coming out of its back and that sprouts into a sword. (Note to self: buy a fuzzy cat sword.) No one's quite sure why the cat turns into a sword or why Meifon looks like an angry stripper with breasts far too big for her delicate body, but that's beside the point. She's in charge of a ship called Angel Links that has a ginormous gun that wipes out everything in range. Because of this, the first half of the series is dedicated to cheesily animated battle upon battle (her ship is pink. PINK!!!) with mostly stand-alone episodes that have no aim or point. Ah, but right as you're forever losing hope in the series, out it pops with a plot twist! Turns out, Meifon isn't who you think she is—and, there's perhaps a reason why her body can have such anatomically impossible mammary glands. But I leave you at that. I certainly wouldn't recommend buying this series unless you've rented it and decided that you want it for sure. The last half of the series is rather entertaining, so there's a chance you might want to forge through the first 6 episodes or so to get to the good stuff. Of course, how many hours you want to kill in front of a television groaning at the filler episodes is up to you.

El Hazard: The Alternative World Box Set

Pioneer Animation 325 min. 1/1 $79.98 07/01/2003
El Hazard: The Wanderers Box Set
Pioneer Animation 650 min. 1/1 $79.99 07/01/2003

What's up with all the boxsets this week, huh? And why is a 26 episode series the same price as a 13 episode one? I hope you'll excuse me for lumping these two releases into the same chunk, but El Hazard is El Hazard, right? Alas, that's the problem with these two releases. Entertaining as they might be, they're exactly like each other, except with different characters, different songs, and slightly different plots. Of course, this also means one other thing. If you haven't seen the original series, you will have no clue what the heck is going on in the Alternative World. Luckily for you, The Wanderers is also being released, so you'll have a pretty chunk o' discs to satisfy all your El Hazard needs this week. To cut a long story short, a bunch of high school kids get sucked into an alternate dimension/timeline/fantastical story gimmick and have to find their way back. Along the way, they meet a bunch of new people, encounter a myriad of excellent adventures, and dabble around with fan service scenes to please viewers. Romance, comedy, action, and adventure abound in the fan-popular original TV series. The Alternative World is pretty much a filler show for what happens after the characters Makoto and Ifurita were separated. *catches her breath* Okay, now that all of that's out of the way, on to more retrospective stuff. El Hazard does possess gimmicky elements that could get boring after awhile, as the series is a conglomeration of the same hope-disappointment-hope-excitement-time travel-romance-time-travel-disappointment-reheat at 450 degrees arcs (think Fushigi Yuugi). However, if you watch it in chunks, it is rather entertaining. The characters are a real joy to watch and with the nice animation, it's very appealing to the eye. While the Alternative World isn't so much a sequel as it is a chunk of filler episodes, it's still fun to watch. However, I strongly recommend that you don't marathon this series. It's just too much of the same stuff over and over again. Rather, rent a few of the individual discs and if you think you really like this series, you might want to throw it on your shelf. It was popular for a reason.

Corrector Yui Vol. #1
Viz, LLC. 125 min. 1/? $24.95 07/01/2003

Card Captor Sakura goes digital this week on the cover of Corrector Yui volume 1, gracing the five episode disc of Viz's new Kia Asamiya release. I just hope that the events in this series never transpire, because I fear that if a computer illiterate girl as cute as Yui went into my network, she'd erase everyone's codes and replace them with <3s and OMGLOL!s. The story takes place somewhere in the distant future where the entire world is run by one computer (for Asimov readers, this is the Brain of the Asamiya world). Everywhere you turn, it's digital, including digital teachers, auto-pilot cars, and restaurants staffed by computers. Right smack in the middle of this technological marvel is Yui, a girl who would just as likely try to write out an e-mail on a screen with a sharpie as she would know how to use a mouse. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, the supercomputer decides to take over the world Matrix style, so he and his henchmen (they're actually called, in capital letters, CORRUPTERS) run off to wreak havoc in an otherwise pleasant society. If that wasn't bad enough, it's up to Yui to save the day, so off she trounces to fight e-mail viruses and minions of zombies. All told, this is a vastly amusing series, not so much because of the storyline, but because of the mixture of cuteness, comedy, and unintentional absurdity that's thrown in. This isn't a series I would immediately dash out to buy, but it's certainly fun enough for a random rental. If you like Asamiya, you may just have to look this one up.

Sol Bianca: The Legacy Box Set
Pioneer Animation 180 min. 1/1 $59.98 07/01/2003

Sol Bianca: The Legacy is pretty much a remake of the original Sol Bianca. Of course, this time around, it's got some pretty art (that gets stinkified by some bad CG in the first few episodes) and some nice animation. The series is about a bunch of pirates that run around the galaxy, eventually heading towards Earth to chase after their buddies' parents. Okay, so the plot is stronger than that, but that's not really important. What I like about Sol Bianca is the massive characterization that the characters get shoved through in the first few episodes. For a six episode series, you really get to know these people. With issues like internal turmoil, the pain of the past, and what not, the characters truly get the chance to appeal to viewers. However, with the exception of this, there isn't too much too offer in the way of story in the first half. In fact, it concentrates so much on building up the characters that the story is a bit choppy. However, when the climax is hit, the story really swings into space-flying fun. As you can see, the quality of the series story wise, art wise, and people wise isn't incredibly consistent. It's probably because of this that I would only recommend this series for a rental. It's certainly good enough to watch, but whether or not you'd plan on ever watching it ever again is tough to tell.

That's this week's Shelf Life for you. Have fun, and for all the people that will be in Anaheim for Expo, I'd love to meet you! I'll be at the industry panels, so track me down if you can, alright?

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