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Shelf Life
Snow capped glories

by Bamboo Dong,
Denver International Airport. Spanning 1.5 million square feet, its spacious concourses are connected via underground shuttles that run every few minutes. With the main atriums housed under walled glass and translucent roofs that appear from the outside as tented peaks representing the Rocky Mountains, DIA, or as the more travel-savvy person knows, “DEN,” is area-wise one of the largest airports in the United States. Gazing across the plains, trimmed with the purple foothills, however, the airport looks rather petite. What is perceived by the casual eye is the terminal, named after aviator and businessman Elrey B. Jeppesen. Inside the terminal, people are invited to check in and grab their tickets in a compact, but efficient, set of sub-terminals, pass through the quick yet thorough security check line, board the shuttles that hurtle towards the concourses, and bid their last farewells. A few floors down, people coming in welcomed by Denver, ready to pick up their bags, and either board buses or get picked up in the Passenger Pickup bay.

Passenger Pickup. This is where all of the magic ends. DIA Passenger Pickup is easily the crappiest, most inefficient, most dastardly insipid and inane thing ever created by the hallowed state of Colorado. It almost makes me ashamed to call myself a Coloradoan—not as ashamed as being in the same state as the Colorado Rockies, of course, but it's still a factor. Passenger Pickup is a small avenue that forces its patrons to continuously drive about in five minute circles, patrolled by butch, vicious, old, gnarly, ugly, man-looking women. These figments of bygone fantasy tales akin to the most feared witch or troll-like figure continually parade about the sidewalk on their rusty limbs and snarl at innocent Coloradoans, “If you're not actively loading, keep driving. Can't you read the sign?” Incidentally, there is no sign. Anywhere. Occasionally, these hags will be replaced by their more likable counterparts—employees who are yet not as butch, not as vicious, and certainly not quite mannish-looking—though it will only be a matter of years. DIA, how I wish you could live up to your glorious image and get rid of this infernal PP system—or at least the frightening women moderating it.

With that, welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

DNA^2 Vol. #4: Crossfire
Central Park Media 75 min. 4/5 $29.98 08/12/2003

It will always surprise me how Masakazu Katsura can draw delicate lace panties and voluptuous breasts with the same zest as ripple-chested and shiny-toothed men. It will also always surprise me how much better the manga series is over the animated series, but that I'll keep watching the latter because I love watching Katsura's characters move, and I love hearing L'Arc~en~Ciel's “Blurry Eyes” every 25 minutes. With the second to last volume of the series now out, the writers invoked rule number one of the Anime Dogma and, naturally, started a war, albeit a small one. Ryuuji gets shot with a magic bullet and manages to turn into a shape-shifting evil thing that has the ability to transform into anyone he's touched. He goes around the school terrorizing the denizens and leaving a trail of rape and discomfiture everywhere he goes. Luckily, the girl-melting, Dep10-slathering Mega Playboy is here to save the day. With only one more volume to go, it's interesting to see the story progress into much more serious territory, all while keeping the light charms of panty shots and teenage hormones there to brighten up the day. This is definitely a fun series for the shelves—if even as an excuse to listen to the opening over and over again.

Steel Angel Kurumi 2 Vol. #1
ADV Films 90 min. 1/? $24.98 08/12/2003

As fans pull out their new Steel Angel Kurumi DVDs, voices everywhere will mumble in unison, “Thank you, David.” At first glance, the cover looks like Kurumi and Nako in their school outfits. However, lift the clear sheet and voila... underwear. Slip another sheet in and you get to see them in maid outfits. Turn the entire thing around and you get to see the three girls rolling around on bed sheets with quite a lack of clothing. Truly, I marvel at ADV's ability to get fanboys to melt into happy puddles of Colorful-esque-breast-eyed wonder with so many of their releases. With a TV series and OVAs out of the way, Steel Angel Kurumi is back in a new piece of (so far) pointless fluff that lets fans sit back and relax with cute adventures and borderline lesbian fun. Kurumi is reawakened in the 21st century by some 9th grade cellist girl. They end up living out everyday fun with things like going to school, prancing around the house naked, and getting hit on by jealous girls next door. The animation is gorgeous, and the artwork is definitely bright and shiny to look at. If you haven't seen the original series, no worries, because this can be seen entirely as a stand-alone. As of yet, there isn't an overarching story arc yet, but until then, enjoy the cute activities and try not to stain your mother's couch with your drool.

Rental Shelf

Little Snow Fairy Sugar Vol. #3: The Bear Pianist
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 3/6 $29.98 08/12/2003

So ridiculously cute... gah... Somehow, this series has the power to completely melt me and leave me sinking in a sea of happiness and gushiness. It still remains one of the smartest little kids' shows I've ever seen, without yet lifting a single note of patronization. Nearing the halfway mark, Sugar, Salt and Pepper decide to explore the set of the play that will be performed, and only cuteness (and a bit of confusion of havoc) ensues. Of course, everyone in town also has their minds on the play, but when the opening act starts, Saga is in for a boatload of surprise! Well, even if it's only a kids show, I can't ruin the fun for you, so if you'll have to check it out for yourself. With an adorable music score to go along with it, watching these scenes is an absolute joy. Of course, many fans probably wouldn't quite enjoy the prospect of watching a kiddie show about fairies and Twinkles. If you need an endearing show to cheer up your life, though, I really recommend Sugar for you. It certainly packs enough charm to light up anyone's day.

Inu Yasha Vol. #08
Viz, LLC. 75 min. 8/? $24.95 08/12/2003

Right now, I can almost hear the collective gasp of Inu Yasha-lovers everywhere as they see their beloved dog boy lay on the mack with another chick on the cover of the eighth DVD. By now, Inu Yasha's starting to pick up, and it's about time. The plot's actually escalated beyond a monster-of-the-week pattern as the character relationships are mounting to the point that there actually are relationships to speak of. In this volume, news is heard that Kikyo may still be alive and well. Of course, things get more complicated as Kagome realizes with a sinking feeling that there may be more to Inu Yasha and Kikyo than she originally thought. It is this growing crystallization of character development that makes Inu Yasha so much better to watch now that we're getting deeper into the series. It's still a hefty price to pay for such a long series, but if you're a fan of the series, this volume is definitely worth a rental.

Dragon Knight: Wheel of Time Vol. #2
SoftCel Pictures 65 min. 2/2 $29.98 08/12/2003

Let not the Softcel label surprise you. Believe it or not, this OVA series contains virtually no gratuitous sex and is more like your everyday fantasy anime avec some naked people here and there. Still, it's not something you'd watch with the kids, but at least it's good for some entertainment. In the first volume, viewers learned that Kakeru had traveled back to his past to right the wrongs that he had committed. The catch was, he had to keep his identity a secret—especially from his younger self. In the last volume, though, this task is proving to be ever more strenuous. He now has the manpower to drive back the Evil Lord, but can he keep his skeletons long enough to complete his quest? One of the most enjoyable hentai titles ever made (and the most conservative), Dragon Knight: The Wheel of Time plays out more like a raunchier episode of regular elfin thoroughfare than anything else. Based on the fourth Dragon Knight video game, it's easy to see where the linear storytelling comes from, but it's still an entertaining viewing. It's probably not something I'd watch over and over again, but it's definitely worth seeing at least once.

Hades Project Zeorymer Vol. #2: Extinction
Central Park Media 60 min. 2/2 $19.99 08/12/2003

Let me give you two reasons to watch this: it's short, and it's got robots. Don't worry about the plot; the OVA is too short to even worry about it. Somewhere in the episodes, this one chick gets kidnapped, leaving another dude to fight the Evil Menace known as Rose C'est La Vie (quite possibly the stupidest name for a bad entity ever). In the meantime, people are starting to realize Masato's alter-ego persona, so he has to work to find his old personality while he's trying to save the world from a tottering nuclear deterrence. It's a mess, isn't it? So many characters, so many twists... in just four episodes. If you're set on watching this show, I truly recommend that you watch all of the episodes in one sitting. With a gap in between viewings, you tend to forget what just happened in the previous scene. Regardless, short OVAs like this that are packed so tight with heavy robot action are hard to come by, so this is certainly something mecha enthusiasts might want to check out for a quick metallic fix.

Machine Robo Vol. #2
Central Park Media 125 min. 2/? $19.99 08/12/2003

Go GoBots go!!! There isn't anything cooler than 80s animated toy commercials, and Machine Robo is the epitome of one of them. Based on the toys (I kid you not), Machine Robo is the tale of a race of living robots who, for some reason, never really need to refuel and what not. Everything is peaceful and idyllic until bad guys invade, who want some magic item that will give them eternal life. The main character Rom sets out to save his people, but in order to do so, he has to discover his superpowers first. Pretty much, Machine Robo plays out like a magical girl show—except with robots instead of big breasted twats. Released subtitled only by Central Park Media, this series is certainly amusing enough, but as a show that's based on a set of toys, it's not a particularly strong production. The plot is rather weak and not nearly enough time is spent developing the characters. If you want some nostalgia of yore, this might be a fun trip back in time for you, but it's not something I'd fork over money for.

Spirit Warrior Vol. #1: Revival of Evil
Central Park Media 49 min. 1/? $19.99 08/12/2003

Years and years ago, Evil was Sealed by Good. The Good Gods vowed to never let the Evil One ever surface again™. Now, a team of Neo-Nazis are out to revive the Evil One. Right here is where you decide to go one of two ways: A) This flick is about Neo-Nazis who want to resurrect a bad guy? What IS this?! How stupid! Or B) OMG!!! The good guys have to fight Neo-Nazis who want to take over the world! XD XD XD. If you pick the former, then this will mean nothing to do. If you're like me and think that the story sounds extremely entertaining, come on in. I don't know how the rest of the Spirit Warrior (also known as the Peacock King) series will go, but the first episode is certainly fun to watch. The animation is nice and the premise is something I haven't seen in an anime series in a long time. Of course, every series has its downsides, and this one has its own list. The characters aren't given much time, so at the end of everything, virtually nothing is known about them. Also, the scenes jump around from setting to setting rather incoherently, bring down the story a few notches. Despite all of that though, it's still good for a rental or two. After all, how often do you get to see Nazis getting melted down because they're trying to unseal a cartoon character?

Master Keaton Vol. #2
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 2/? $29.98 08/12/2003

Why, hello there Stink Bomb man. Alas, you're a little early since Memories isn't out yet, but feel free to camp out on the Master Keaton DVD cover. As of yet, the show still doesn't have a driving purpose, but it's still fun while it's lasting. Keaton is still traveling around the world saving the world from kidnappers, natural elements, old fogies, and more. Really, it feels like a cross between a detective show, an adventure show, and an action hero show—even if it's not actually any of those. Featuring fun and engaging plots, the episodes themselves are rather entertaining to watch, even if they serve no greater purpose other than to pimp out Keaton's crazy skills. The rounded and stubby character designs are a little hokey and take a little getting used to, as well as the wavering animation quality, but the main reason to watch this show would just be to see how this guy gets himself out of (and into) all these situations. At this point in the series, it's not quite enjoyable enough that I could find a reason to watch it more than once, but it's certainly useful to slaughter off any seeds of boredom that might be sprouting.

Reign: The Obsession of Alexander Vol. #4
TOKYOPOP 80 min. 4/4 $29.98 08/12/2003

Up until now, I had been too turned off by that sinewy Eva-look-alike prancing about in metal leotards to pay the series any heed. Now I'm realizing that the way the story is told is really quite something. Flowing like a Greek tragedy, the way that the flashbacks and foreshadowing are used, and the way that the scenes are interchanged with one another smack of Antigone, or even something a few thousand years ahead like Shakespeare's Caesar. So, sure, the visuals may be rather unappealing, or just flat-out ugly (if you're not used to them), but the story telling is nicely done. In this last volume, the final conquests of Alexander are plotted out as he finally suffers his tragic hero fate. It's not one of the best series that's come out this summer, but it's certainly unique enough to be noteworthy. With the slick animation and the interesting storytelling, it's definitely worth a rental just to check it out. By the last volume, the series is finally picking up.

Perishable Item

Elven Bride
SoftCel Pictures 50 min. 1/1 $29.98 08/12/2003

How... utterly cute. How ridiculously sweet and... cute. I really didn't think I'd ever not recommend a hentai title because it was shiny and bouncy and downright adorable, but there's a first for everything—though maybe not for the couple in this title. In a place and time where elves were looked down upon, Kenji and Milfa broke social convention by entering in a human-elf marriage. The partnership between the two truly embody all that is sweet and pretty with love, giving the production a romantic over-tinge that sets the mood remarkably well. Sadly, the real story is pretty stupid. Our cheery couple is hit with the realization on honeymoon night that, well, elves and humans can't really have sex because elfin women are tighter than an electrical socket. The entire story after that is devoted to Kenji looking for super lubricant, and Milfa trying to beat off perverted doctors who'd rather have sex with random things than help her out. Yeah, that's pretty much it. I told you it was stupid. The thing is, there's actually not that much sex in the show. It's certainly implied, but most of the camera shots are focused on the upper body and buttocks. Thus, you're left with a series that's so innocent and frilly it might not appeal to hentai watchers at all, but packs enough ass that it can't be shown to people that look down on porn. It certainly isn't worth the $30 to buy, but it's just so ludicrously cute enough that maybe a rental would be fun for a night with the SO.

Beyblade Vol. #4
Pioneer Animation 125 min. 4/? $19.98 08/12/2003

In this action packed volume, old friends go at in one-two-punch combat at the Asian Beyblade Tournament!! Deceits run high and sweat flows profusely as the heart-stopping, lightning-pounding battles that will forever change the lives of our young characters!!!! Before they know it, they're on their way to the awe-striking US TOURNAMENT!!! They stop by a factory and realize with shock! and dismay! that all the things they've learned up until now mean nothing, and the only thing they have left is their courage and their teamwork!!!!!!!! ... ... ... Do the characters not realize that their life-and-death battles are nothing more than a stupid game equivalent to moving POGs? I really don't think I can take a kid seriously if he's trying to Unleash the Maximum Fury with a plastic toy. Yeah, the story is fun enough to watch a little at a time, but with all the kiddie stuff out there, why not feed your kids something better? Meh, forget Beyblade. Go watch YuGiOh or something.

Project Arms Vol. #06
Viz, LLC. 75 min. 6 $24.95 08/12/2003

What started off as an angsty, troubled high-school-kid-with-superpower-who's-gotta-save-the-world show is now a bad-guy-with-lousy-name-of-the-week series. Pitted against losers with names like Kyklops and Twister Carol, the good guys are thrown into trite battle after trite battle until it's clear that the series has lost all focus. All of the secrets that the characters strived to get in the past episodes, all the hardships that they went through—flushed down the drain in pocketfuls of stupid fights against playground punks. It's unclear where the story is going to go from here, but I hope it drags itself back onto the track that it started on. Until then, I wouldn't bother with this series, especially not when there's shelves upon shelves of better anime to feast your palette on.

And thus endeth this week's Shelf Life. Thanks for reading!

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