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Shelf Life
Onegai Bamboo

by Bamboo Dong,
Due to some unforseeable errors, last week's Shelf Life is being posted now. Thanks for your patience!

Welcome to this week's Shelf Life, brought to you from a variety of locations, ranging from somewhere in the sky, to my lair o' writing. When I first started writing this, I was perched within the bowels of a Boeing 737, hurtling across time zones from the gallant, mountainous regions of Northern Colorado to a population infested fun-spot with gimpy mountains. Now, a weekend later, I sit back in my old chair staring out at my old view with a suitcase full of stuff I'll never need and a wallet bereft of money. I decided the best way to heal my post-convention morbidity was to make myself nachos. By the time I reached the kitchen, I was getting really excited about the idea. My heart sank as I realized that the last one-third of the chip bag was filled with crushed fragments. How could I properly indulge in cheesy dipping delight when I had nothing but crumbs in the bag? Regardless, I shook them out into a plate and topped them with three heavy dollops of medium cheese. As I was screwing the cap back on the jar, I noticed with dismay that there was a furry clod of mold sitting underneath the lid. Hopefully it won't affect my nachos, right? I mean, the mold didn't actually touch my cheese yet... but what about the spores? The spores!!! I shoved the plate into the microwave, hoping that if I nuked the chips with enough radiation, the spores would die. As I stirred my clump of crumbs into an entity that looked like a freshly opened jar of Eukanuba Chicken Recipe Mix™ wet food for both canines and felines, I vainly hoped that the spores wouldn't tear a hole through my duodenum. In the event that I do die, however, I thank you for reading my potentially last Shelf Life. If I don't reappear next week, please take revenge upon my death and wage a war against the spores. Friends, let us unite and holler our battle cry against fungus: Spores Create Anti-Life!!!

And with that, I humbly welcome you to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Alien Nine
Central Park Media 100 min. 1/1 $29.98 07/08/2003

My introduction to this series ocurred as I tried to sleep through a convention screening. I woke up the first time to the pounding drums of the opening theme and scared myself half to death with the bizarre images of frog-like aliens jumping around. The second time I woke up was to see a girl skate around with wings on her helmet. My final time waking up was to see tubes sprouting out of a girl's back. I finally learned my lesson and realized that this is show is detrimental to your sanity if you watch it half asleep. Based on the manga by Hitoshi Tomizawa, the short OVA series tells a wonderfully bizarre and mildly dark tale about three girls who are elected to be in the Alien Party, a group of people who go around the school getting rid of all the aliens that pop up at random intervals. In addition to that, something even sneakier is going on—can the girls find out what it is before things get worse for everyone? Aside from the surprisingly unique storyline, what's really interesting is the art. Featuring gangly girls with aliens on their heads and scenes that can only be described as mildly perturbing, it brings out the disturbing nature of the series. One hardly ever expects to see cute girls rollerblading around with things sprouting out of their backs, so the shock value definitely works for the episodes as well. For fans who want to read the manga as well, Central Park Media will be releasing both in an ultimate collector's box soon. Until then, though, enjoy the anime. This show certainly possesses enough creative elements to warrant a place on your shelf.

Chobits Vol. #3: Darkness Descends
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 3/7 $29.98 07/08/2003

Fanservice or not, I like Chobits. As the series progresses more and more into the heart of things, the theme of the series starts straying away from fanboy fodder and much more onto the concept of man's reliance on machines and technology. In the third volume of the series, more is discussed about Chi and the mythical Persocoms that possess a free will and complex emotions. This proves to be rather interesting when a chipper Hideki goes out on his first date with Yumi, only to leave Chi rather sorrowful and sultry. If it's in your heart's desire, what follows in the next few episodes can be compared allegorically to mankind's relationship with machines and the way they share a symbiotic link of necessity. Of course, if you don't want to over think about the anime you're watching, you can just enjoy cute adventures of the characters in a virtual reality world or trapping bad guys in the neighborhood. Regardless, whether you feel like overanalyzing the series or taking it at face value, the series is starting to get more enjoyable after it hit a tiny dry patch in the last volume. Now that Chi is developing more of a solid personality and knowledge database, the character interactions are much more enjoyable to watch. With themes uniquely presented by the gals at CLAMP, Chobits is a series you don't want to miss.

Risky Safety Vol. #1
AN Entertainment 80 min. 1/? $29.95 07/08/2003

Also known as Omishi Magical Theater, Risky Safety is one of those series that may have its downsides, but also enough high perks to outweigh all the bad parts four times over. Licensed and released by the newly founded AN Entertainment, the DVD is very impressive. Complete with copious translation notes on both the disc and the insert, the disc is very helpful to fans who want to know about every nuance in the series. The series starts off with a girl who feels like her life is completely over because the guy she has a crush on doesn't like her anymore. My first thought was that if that was the most traumatic thing that's ever happened to her, and she's on the verge of insanity over it, she won't go very far in life, but regardless, that's the story initiator. Anyway, she accidentally summons a soul-collector devil thing named Risky. By chance, she cracks a ray of sunshine through her bright smile and *poof* the devil turns into a cute little angel named Safety. Now, the series tries hard to be sugary and cute, but so much weirdness pops up that what you end up with is a hysterical series infused with so much cuteness you'd think you're watching a Saturday morning kid's show. I hate to compare a series to object A on substance B, but the first time I saw Risky Safety, I thought to myself, “Wow. It's like taking some really cute character like St. Tail and feeding her endless sticks of Lotte's Black Black chewing gum.” Whether it's cuteness you want, humorous adventures, or just random zaniness, AN Entertainment has graciously presented fandom with the chance to watch it all in Risky Safety. This isn't an opportunity to pass up—go buy this now.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #7: Temptation w/ Artbox & T-shirt
Central Park Media 100 min. 1/1 $34.99 07/08/2003
Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #7: Temptation
Central Park Media 100 min. 7/10 $29.98 07/08/2003

The Apocalypse Saga has finally begun and while the episodes get more and more bizarre, the story also kicks itself into one of the most exciting arcs in the series. To commemorate the start of this new saga, Central Park Media is giving fans the opportunity to buy the artbox for the series, with a T-shirt thrown in just for good measure. The disc kicks off with Nanami finding, of all things, an egg in her bed. Wow, I didn't know girls could lay eggs. Well, she didn't know either, which provides for some comedic entertainment in the scenes to follow. What really pushes the series ahead, though, is the episode that introduces a certain character, completing the triangle in Jury's life. From that episode on, the characters are explored more in depth and the dark secrets of Ohtori Academy are beginning to have some light shed upon them. If you ever thought that Utena was darkly intriguing before, this DVD will blow your pants off. All the characters' hidden agendas are starting to crack open, all their inner passions are being revealed—you can't call yourself a fan of Utena unless this is in your collection.

.hack//SIGN Vol. #3: Special Edition
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 3/6 $39.98 07/08/2003

As per Bandai tradition for their .Hack//SIGN releases, the limited edition is being released before the regular edition, goading fans to be the first to watch the third disc. Including the third soundtrack for the series, the disc certainly is packaged nicely enough, but are the episodes worth watching? Well, the plot certainly houses enough interesting points to drive the series ever onward. More leads are found to the secret of the Key of the Twilight, information is gathered on how Tsukasa can be saved—then why is a huge chunk of the DVD so incredibly boring? The pacing is far too slow on some of the episodes, with “revelations” that have already been stated before numerous times. The first episode shows the main characters wandering around what can only remind me of a massive LAN party. Then things are supposed to get interesting when doctors discuss more about the girl in the coma in the real world. Unfortunately, nothing new is really revealed, and with the rest of the would-be exciting scenes in the DVD, not much happens. Much is speculated, but nothing is revealed. While this may be a good tactic to keep people interested in the show, the pacing is so slow that all it does is make people rather exasperated that they still don't really know what's going on. And yet despite of all that griping, I still recommend this DVD. Why? Well, whatever the mysteries are vaguely hinting at, I'm sure they'll be good when they're finally revealed. It may be a tad boring now, but I'm really curious to see what's going to happen next. Of course, this may not appeal to you at all, but if you've watched .Hack so far, there's a big chance you're in the same boat as me, wondering about the coma girl and Tsukasa, right? Besides, with Bandai's impressive marketing skills, the packaging is something that's almost too good to pass up.

Wild Arms Vol. #5: Sheyenne's Last Stand
ADV Films 125 minutes 5/5 $29.98 07/08/2003

Wild Arms needs to get more attention than it's getting right now. Honestly, this is a good show, but no one really pays it any heed at all. In the final volume of the series, things really heat up. All the mysteries are revealed, characters are brought from the shady past, myths are unearthed, and Ultimate Battles are pitched in a decidedly laid-back Wild Arms way. There really is nothing that can be mentioned, as every minute is laden with spoilers, but that in itself is an indication as to why you should buy this disc to round out your collection. The solid way that the characters are developed until the last minute also gives the series a sense of completion, leaving viewers fully satisfied and not groping for more. If you've been turned off by the previous discs, maybe this one will dump you back into the game. With action and comedy, mystery and science fiction, this will appeal to the shounen adventurer in everyone. Check out this volume—it makes the entire series worth watching.

Rental Shelf

Descendants of Darkness Collection
Central Park Media 325 min. 1/1 $99.99 07/08/2003
Descendants of Darkness: Demon's Reckoning
Central Park Media 100 min. 4/4 $29.98 07/08/2003

In the last disc of the series, the mysterious and oftentimes morbid Descendants of Darkness wraps up with a four-part story to answer any remaining questions about the characters. The story starts out innocently (and extremely slowly) enough with the characters investigation a string of murders in Kyoto. Before the viewers are even aware of it, we're plopped into a story about Muraki and a doctor that he knows and the latter's quest to further his research in human cloning. Problem is, the tissue from the dead subjects he keeps mysteriously obtaining isn't staying alive lone enough. Muraki helps him out by pointing out an immortal man, someone who may help the doctor in his quest. What this soon spirals down into is a chilling and horrifying tale about the motives of the characters, the pasts that they've had to confront, and the future that may lie ahead for them. While the opening part of this four-episode story is a bit boring, it soon escalates into an absorbing story that will make you wish that the series wasn't over so soon. This is certainly a disc that deserves a rental, if only for the last two episodes. Of course, if you've held out buying the series until now, you can be rewarded with a boxset of all four DVDs. Personally, I enjoyed this disc more than the prior three, but I don't know if I'd buy the entire series just for my overwhelmingly positive response to the last volume. Regardless of whether or not you buy it, though, just be sure you watch the last volume.

Lupin the 3rd TV Vol. #03: Family Jewels
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 3/10 $24.98 07/08/2003

Alright... volume three... I'm getting tired of Lupin. I know, I know, I used to love this series, and I still do, but it's getting a little old. There are only so many times you can steal a diamond, or golden bear, or a Buddhist statue, or a scroll, or random-object-that-will-fall-into-the-wrong-hands with some inspector chasing after you the whole way before it starts to get a little repetitive. Luckily, I've found that the best cure for this is to allow yourself to only watch two episodes a week. This way, the adventures are still mostly fresh every time, and you don't get burned out as quickly. In this volume, Lupin goes chasing after jewels, but ends up getting chased by zombies halfway through. The gags are still mostly the same, and the hijinks are rather standard, but if watched only once in awhile, these stunts can be pretty fun. After all, Lupin does pull out some smooth lines with the ladies and his womanizing skills certainly have the ability to put a smile on some people's faces. Considering the age of the series, though, I can't say that the visuals are too heavily impressive, with the sometimes crusty animation. The female characters look largely the same, and the character design for the minor male characters seem a bit rushed. Regardless, it's a fun series, providing you don't overdose on it. If you're in the mood for some intentional comedy this week, this might be a fun way to take a look at for a quick rental.

Please Teacher Vol. #2: Meet the In-Laws
Bandai Entertainment 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 07/08/2003

Have you ever had a crush on one of your teachers? That sudden feeling when they're lecturing you on Chapter 6 out of the history book and you realize, wow... that teacher has amazing eyes... Or when you idolize your teacher, picturing sketchily how nice it would be to run off with them and elope under the setting sun... ? Yeah? You've had that, too? Well, you're weird, because I was just kidding. Listen up kids—marrying your teacher is a bad thing. It probably gets you great grades in school, but really, it doesn't score you that many “cool points” with your pals at all. Keep that in mind this week when you watch the second volume of Please Teacher. The adventures may seem amusing enough on screen, but mimicking cartoons is probably something you don't want to try at home. Mizuho and Kei go on their honeymoon, but predictably, it having generic shounen romance plot twists and all surprisingly, Kei's buddies are there, too. Uh oh! What're they gonna do, huh? (See? No cool points for Kei. Friend's sister, now that's different.) Well, fortunately, the alarm went off in the writers' heads that the show was overusing the “run into friends at a resort” shtick so they decided to move into a different realm and whip out some Ah! Megami-sama stunts instead. Mizuho's alien sister and mom are introduced, and at all times, one of them is either trying to kill Kei or get in bed with him. Naturally. (Teacher's mom. Double non-cool points.) Overall, Please Teacher is entertaining enough to watch if you're into the stereotypic shounen romance story, a la Ai Yori Aoshi. In fact, the art seems also stereotypic too, with the plastic faced scrawny guys and the unnaturally bosomy girls, but hey, if you like that kind of thing, you'll love this series. Besides, there's always a few sci-fi elements thrown in here and there that make it relatively unique, even for two minutes. If you're not sure if you like these kinds of series or not, I really recommend a rental for you. $2.99 never hurts as much as $29.98.

Nightmare Campus Vol.#3
Anime 18 40 min. 3/5 $29.98 07/08/2003

Over the course of the last two DVDs, this series has gone from interesting to absolutely stupid, which is exactly the reason why I'm recommending it. Honestly, everyone needs a good laugh every now and then, and if this won't induce belly-aching guffaws from you, I don't know what will (next to the Art of Fighting). The first two DVDs were rather intriguing, separating itself from your average hentai by having a darkly fascinating storyline with demons and hostile takeovers of things. It was pretty much your classic gothic horror with naked people. I eagerly pressed play for the third volume (as eager as one could be to watch porn, I suppose) and within minutes, was pelted with a variety of emotions, including disappointment, amusement, skepticism, and the hysterical mental image of someone doing a documentary on ANN writers and cutting to me leaning on my desk staring in amazement at a blue thing having sex with someone (Whuut? Where did that body part come from?). Let me see if I can try to share with you how (unintentionally) humorous this volume is. There're monsters and demons running around raping people. In the midst of all this chaos, the campus doctor and the student body president come up with the bright idea of hey, let's try and stop all the gang violence at school! Yup, let's forget the demons running amok and just see what we can do about these crazy gang members. Ooh, ooh, but get this. The main character decides that he has to fight for his ideals and gets in the Ultimate Battle for Survival with the martial arts club. I suppose these kinds of activities are condoned by the Dean of Student Activities over there, but I know it wouldn't rest to well at my school. Anyway, most of the scenes lack any everyday logic whatsoever, especially as to how certain people would act in certain solutions, but hey, it's entertaining, and that's what anime is for. I can't say much for the animation, but as far as the art goes, I'm glad that the character designs are unique and not like the cookie-cutter faces that normally go with hentai. All in all, this is an amusing release. It's certainly not as good as the previous volumes, but this is just so hysterically stupid that if you want to have a heckling good time, you have absolutely no reason to not watch it.

Card Captor Sakura Vol. #16
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 16/18 $29.99 07/08/2003

With only two more volumes to go after this, Card Captor Sakura pulls away from hinting at the final battle and settles back into more random fun with the characters. Sakura has some interesting adventures using the Mirror Card to do Christmas shopping, but hey, that would be too easy, so of course it doesn't work. What's fun to watch about this volume is the changing relationships between the three main characters. Li finally scrapes up enough courage to be open with Sakura, even if he accidentally hurts Meilin in the process. The scenes that surround this event are definitely worth watching if you're a Card Captor Sakura fan, just because the character interactions are ones that took so long to become dynamic. Other than that, there's not that much exciting about this DVD, but as the end of the series approaches, prepare for some excitement.

Sakura Wars TV Vol. #2: Overture
ADV Films 100 min. 2/6 $29.98 07/08/2003

Sporting what is quite possibly the nicest DVD cover I've seen all week (okay, it looks like an amateur Photoshop job with too many filters, but the colors are so soft... ), the Sakura Wars TV series hits its second volume this week. Introducing a few new characters, viewers are left with the distinct impression that the creator needed to spend more time thinking up names. With people named Kouran the Brain and Kanna the Brawn, I was really expecting to see a historical appearance by Pepe the Short, but I was denied that pleasure. I can't really say that Sakura Wars has a driving point yet. So far, it's rather blasé, with a lot of character introductions and frivolous things like galas, but I can't really say that's a bad thing. If the series picked up and spent more time on character development rather than just introduction, that would really raise the level of the series beyond just having video game characters walk around in dresses. Anyway, if you were a fan of the games or the OVAs, then you definitely might be interested in the TV series. If anything else, it's worth renting just to try and figure out why the characters were so incredibly popular in Japan.

Perishable Item

Art of Fighting
Central Park Media 46 min. 1/1 $19.99 07/08/2003

Watching this brief movie was certainly an emotional experience for me. Halfway through the flick I was getting teary eyed, and before I knew it, I was bawling like a lost kitten. No, it wasn't that the film had any heart-wrenching moments or sorrowful tales of personal redemption. It wasn't even that the film was so bad that it made me cry. I just had a hard time breathing and keeping a straight face while I laughed until jubilant tears rolled out of my eyes and plopped onto my doubled over body. Art of Fighting is quite possibly one of the cheesiest movies ever made in video-game-based anime history and nothing anyone can say will ever convince me that the guys at CPM didn't license this as a colossal joke. Based on the fighting game of the same name, this movie features personality-less characters that are nothing like how they are in the game. In fact, one of the toughest chicks is portrayed as a cardboard-dry ditz who does nothing but wait for men to save her from a variety of perils. The movie opens with Ryo and Robert wandering around looking for work. Before you know it, some random plot twist is thrown into the otherwise pointless story and out of nowhere, large-scale fights erupt every five minutes. See, the fight scenes could be impressive if it weren't for the fact that the animation is choppy and old, the art is washed out and, well, old, and the dialogue is far too lame. Who's going to take a fight to the Ultimate Death seriously if some dude's asking for a girl's phone number halfway through? If I was in a battle to the Ultimate Death, I can guarantee you that finding a date to the movies would be the last thing on my mind. Perhaps some people have different priorities than me. Regardless, this is a release which has virtually nothing going for it except the fact that it's the greatest thing to rent if you and your friends want to have a heckle fest. There are so many things to make fun of in this movie that if you can sit through the thing without laughing out loud or making a wisecrack once, I'll eat my hat. Certainly, this is not something I'd waste my money on, but hey, if you're looking for joke fodder, this is the title for you.

Battle Arena Toshinden: Uncut Version
Central Park Media 60 min. 1/1 $19.98 07/08/2003

Honestly, I don't think I could ever be scared of a bad guy named Gaia. Every time I picture that name, I see a half naked fairy-type woman prancing around in the moonlight with vines wrapped around her rated-R areas. Mental image aside, Battle Arena Toshinden is based off the fighting games of the same name and features a cast of fighters (most of whom only get under a minute of screen time in the two OVAs) kicking the crap out of Gaia and his horde of skill-copying cyborgs. The thing that separates these two episodes from the Art of Fighting is that there actually is something of a plot. The bad guys are trying to take over the world by creating modified humans that can copy the fighters' moves and then pummel them half to death with them. (Emulators always irked me in that I had to press 8 buttons to do a move, whereas in the arcade I could just swirl the joystick in a circle, but hey, if I had my own imitation cyborg, that'd be even better.) With the plot, the OVAs aren't 100% fighting, but that's the reason to watch such a show anyway. When the characters aren't punching each other, the animation is pretty bad, so it's not as visually appealing to see your beloved fighting characters walk across a screen as you might think. Either way, it's mildly entertaining to watch for those who enjoyed the games, but I certainly wouldn't go beyond a rental, and then only to kill time. In fact, forget the anime. Just go play the game. *cough* (801bc11a0009 R1+R2+L1+L2) *cough*

Venus 5
Anime 18 106 min. 1/1 $29.98 07/08/2003

OMGWTFLOLOMG!!!11!!! etc, etc... I have no other words for how rancidly BAD and yet oddly amusing Venus 5 is. Presenting itself as a parody of Sailor Moon, Venus 5 is one of those series that kicks you in the head just to make sure you know how bad of a decision you made at the video store. Five heroines try to fight evil by smashing the hordes of bad guys sent out by Necros and the Inma Empire. The bad guys know that the only way to win the war is to bring out their secret weapon—the awakening of the god Apollo. Apparently, the only way to wake him up is to well, use a substance that could be described as a smelling salt of some kind. Except this substance is obtained from a female's lower body cavity après coitus. Well, luckily the Sailor Scouts are here to save the day! By... donating... fluids to screw themselves over... Ugh... Tentacles and random rape scenes run rampant in this series and if that's your thing, well then come on down and pick up your still-clean copy of this atrociously bad DVD. The only reason I can think of for someone to watch this series is if they want to pretend their watching Sailor Moon hentai. In that case, reading a doujinshi would be much better, because at least the art would be passable as decent, rather than just girls who all look the same. (And did I mention that the talking cat has a human-sized... uh... human thing? Isn't that... not normal?) I'm having a bit of trouble further talking about this drivel, so if you'll excuse me, I'll end this here. If you really want to know about this disc, then by all means rent it, but I'm advising you—if it's hentai you want, there are much better ones out there than this.

That's it for this week's insanely long Shelf Life! I apologize for the delay—thanks for reading!

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