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Shelf Life
Private affairs

by Bamboo Dong,
In any given year, I find myself at Denver International Airport at least twenty times per annum. This last Saturday, I found myself there again, ready to embark on a journey to the magical land of Rhode Island. A forum user from ANN had alerted me of conspiracy rumors that haunted DIA, so I made a point to search for the Mesonic symbols and racial supremacy murals that people had whispered of. Alas, I didn't find any of those. However, I did find something a bit more perturbing. Un-sexy public displays of affection.

Yes, this is a serious issue. While I don't mean to infringe upon the romantic rituals of the happy couples around me, this is something that makes the atmosphere around them rather uncomfortable for me and my fellow denizens. If people are bursting at the seams with adoration for their partner, a gentle display of romance is okay. However, once this makes the people around them squirm, something must be done. There are three categories of such outbursts. First, there is the sophomoric, hands-on-ass, freshman dance, saliva-dripping, amateur porn, teenaged mack session. Secondly, there is the almost sickening Fushigi Yuugi OVA syndrome, which can be identified by the following pattern: “Jimmy... ” “Barbara... ” *kiss* “Jimmy... ” “Barbara... ” *kiss* “Jimmy... ” “Barbara... ” *kiss.* This tends to get annoying after the 2nd minute. The third kind is the aforementioned un-sexy PDA. This occurs when two people get together and kiss in such a way that their faces smush together, making them look like deformed trolls with mutated lips. Scenes like that have to make you appreciate the effort hentai animators go through to make the characters' kisses look cute. Like with everything, bad execution coupled with too much horniness can kill almost anything.

Luckily, my plane trip was saved by the amusement of seeing an Amish couple nervously board the jet, so with that image in my head, welcome to this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Haibane Renmei Vol. #1 (also w/box)
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/4 $29.98/$34.98 08/26/2003

Weaving a tapestry of soft colors and delicate music, Yoshitoshi Abe's new project is a rare delicacy amongst the cruder anime titles that are currently saturating the market. Enchanting yet subdued, the series tugs gently at hints of social criticism, allowing viewers to play with thoughts of class consciousness as they immerse themselves within the trance that is Haibane Renmei. The dream begins the instant that the main character's ends, as she finds herself dazed and confused in a new world. With no memories of her past, Rakka emerges as a Haibane, angelic beings that coexist with the humans who live in a town blockaded by a high wall. Adjusting to her new lifestyle, Rakka begins to learn who the Haibane are, as well as question why there is even a wall around the town. Although the viewing experience is as surreal as a lingering dream, more detailed-minded people will find fault with the story. Quite simply, it doesn't really exist—at least not yet. The first four episodes exist to deliver exposition and allow viewers to sample the idyllic atmosphere of the series. While the content portion of the episodes may be lacking, the quiet mood and gorgeous artwork will manage to captivate anyone. Without a doubt, this is a DVD that belongs on your shelf. Some dreams are just too good to wake up from.

Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful Vol. #1: Maid In Training
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 1/? $29.98 08/26/2003

Recovering from their dip into the emotion quota, Gainax immediately jumped back into the deep end, providing plenty of cute girls and fanservice to please the legions of fanboys eagerly crowded at their feet. After an emotional season finale, Mahoromatic is back strong with a second season, recharged and ready to go. Settling back into a more comedic and innocuous routine, the first few episodes take some time to re-gather the mood of the first season's earlier episodes. As hinted at in the first season, there is a girl spying on Suguru. As it turns out, she's a battle android too, but her agenda is still to be seen. In the meanwhile though, Mahoro has taken the girl under her wing to train as a maid. Privy to Suguru's hectic lifestyle, it's certainly amusing to see young Minawa try to cope with her new environment. Providing plenty of laughs and good-times to offset the memories and tears of the first season ending, Mahoromatic S2 is pushing itself off to a good start. Whether you're a fan of Gainax, Mahoromatic, or harbor one of those scary android/maid fetishes, this one's for you.

Rental Shelf

Gun Frontier Vol. #3
Media Blasters 75 min. 3/4 $24.95 08/26/2003

Leiji Matsumoto's beloved characters and gorgeous landscapes return as the series slowly approaches the finale. These episodes find our heroes looking for survivors of the Samurai Creek Massacre, as well as perpetrators that need to be hunted down. Before long, they are tangled in some nasty business, as the series indulges in a few bitter fights that both drive the series forward and let the animators flex their muscles a bit. With the enemies being rapidly identified, things are gearing towards an exciting last volume. It's certainly interesting to see such a time-honored Western theme being used in such a manner, and to have Matsumoto helming such a project is a treat. It's a little discouraging to the see the lead female consistently drop into humiliating situations, but there's not much that can be done about that. Either way, this is shaping up to be quite an interesting release, so hop on that horse and giddy-up to the rental store.

KO Beast Vol. #2: V-Darn Strikes Back!
Right Stuf International, Inc 60 min. 2/3 $24.95 08/26/2003

The first thing that I noticed was that the number of digits on the paw print was incorrect, since that's not what tiger paws look like. Then I noticed that I needed more things to do with my time. Either way, I cleared aside plenty of time to watch KO Beast, whose smooth artwork surprised me, given how old this series is. Leaving off right where the first OVA ended, the second volume of KO Beast continues more of the light-hearted, good-humoured fun that prevailed in the first disc. Panning out much like a video game with its many side quests and adventures, the characters get to run through a huge mess of tasks, like tracking down errant fruit, trying to not get eaten by each other, and fixing their vehicle. The story has died down a bit without the humans in the background consistently talking about fighting, but the pacing has surprisingly picked up. The characters are a fun bunch and the voice actors for both languages just make it all the more better. If school has you feeling down this week, this release will cheer you up, so go check it out.

Mazinkaiser Vol. #1
ADV Films 100 min. 1/2 $29.98 08/26/2003

Mm... fanservice... ! Lots and lots of... robot fanservice! I never did get the opportunity to watch the original Mazinger, so I'm sure aspects of the story were lost to me. However, even as a newbie, I had a lot of fun. Mazinkaiser resurrects Mazinger and brings it up to date, providing fans with that old-fashioned giant robot punch that some have missed dearly. Proving that modern day prim battle suits and cat-ear sprouting androids just don't have what it takes to get that adrenaline pumping and the masses cheering, it's robot time! In the distant future, bad guys with cheesy names like Dr. Hell have drafted sinister plans to take over the world, Japan first (naturally). Who's called up to fight? Why, Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger, of course! Sadly though, out of date weapons just don't cut it in modern warfare, so they lose miserably. Just as things are about to get bad, however, the pilot learns of a secret weapon—the Mazinkaiser!! Accompanied by an overzealous orchestral score and a blaring trumpet solo, the Mazinkaiser is the biggest and baddest robot around. With him flying around, nothing can stop the good guys! Because of my neglect of the original series, I had to view this as a stand-alone. While I suspect that I missed quite a few references and subtleties, it was still an interesting viewing experience. Relishing some of that yester yore of the robot days? Check this out.

Mirage of Blaze Vol. #2
Media Blasters 75 min. 2/4 $24.95 08/26/2003

Wha... ? So there's this one guy whose name is... wait, no, no, that was the other guy with the thing. But wait, I thought he was that one kid that... no, that can't be right... Unfortunately, it is. With so many new characters being tossed into the lineup, I am now officially confused beyond the point of chaos. As I mentioned for the first volume, the Mirage of Blaze series is based on a series of books—books which require a rather hearty knowledge of Japanese history to truly understand properly. It is therefore of no surprise that the series would seem so rushed in its desire to cram itself into a small episodic chunk. In this volume, the pacing slows down a bit, letting viewers focus on a smaller sampling of the cast, learning more about their characters (before adding even more people to the mix). With dips into the past in the form of flashbacks, this disc really tries to flesh out the main characters and their motivations. It's still confusing, but if the story manages to stay focused on a few characters at a time, then it might get somewhere. Until then, have fun staring at all the androgynous pretty boys.

Samurai Deeper Kyo Vol. #2
Media Blasters 125 min. 2/6 $29.95 08/26/2003

Ya know, that cover really makes it look like the guy's trying to rip a hole in his head. I'm a tad bit concerned that his brains will spill out and everyone will have to clean up after him. Brain spillage aside, it's still a pretty cool cover, but it's the DVD that people are watching, right? The adventures of Demon Eyes Kyo continue in the second volume of this fun series. Benitora is pitted against Kyo in this disc, struggling in a fight that he knows he's too weak for. Can he make it? Or will there be brains spilling out of head holes? As of it, I'm still enjoying Samurai Deeper Kyo, not so much for the story, which is still pretty weak, but the characters. Throwing in a random assortment of personas, it's fun to watch the characters interact with each other, even if right now their relationships are still largely superficial. This is certainly a fun show, especially if you want in on some of the fighting action, but it sits precariously on a fine line. It's a good series, but if you don't watch it, it really isn't a big loss. Best answer? Rental, of course.

Dragon Ball Z: Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan
FUNimation Productions 62 min. 1/1 $24.95 08/26/2003

I love going online and watching certain kids bicker to each other about what power level Broly is at, and what kind of Super Saiyan he transforms into. The cute little comments make me realize that the American public school system is an utter failure. Regardless, I will agree that Broly is one of the best Dragon Ball Z movies out there, even though some of the logic escapes me. Broly's dad has a beef against some Super Saiyan guy so he asks Vegeta to go beat him up. Goku ends up getting dispatched to the scene, too, but instead of banding together, he and Vegeta start yammering like old ladies at a Farmers Market about who gets to pound the enemy. Turns out, Broly's dad has some secret issues of his own, while Broly just wants to be the best Saiyan in the world. Myriads of fights ensue, leaving Dragon Ball Z hounds happily foaming in the corner. Like the series? Be cool, stay in school for as long as you possibly can, learn how to type, and rent this thing.

Eden's Bowy Vol. #3
ADV Films 100 min. 3/6 $29.98 08/26/2003

Wahoo! They reached their goal, and now the series can end!! The princess is saved, every death has been avenged, and all is right with the world!!! And like with the news of Evangelion 2 for the PS2, my hopes were irrevocably dashed. It's a good thing I like Eden's Bowy enough to keep watching it for another three more volumes. Well, alright, the characters did reach their goal, but it's too early to celebrate. Hold the tom-toms and pom-poms until the qualm calms, because Yom's mom's gone. As Yom sends his horde in to save the princess, he's resisted by even bigger hordes of bad guys, marking the start of the Ultimate Battle to the Finish. Getting more action-oriented and plot-driven, Eden's Bowy picks up from its plodding and kicks the fun up a notch. It takes a bit of a turn from the angsty God Hunter shtick they started in the first volume, but watching the goofily penned characters act useful for once is certainly fun. It's certainly not the best thing out right now, but it could be worse.

eX-Driver Complete Collection
Media Blasters 180 min. 1/1 $29.95 08/26/2003

For the most part, eX-Driver is 2 fast, 2 furious, and far 2 long. Stemming from the creative hands of Kousuke Fujishima, the series starts off as an enjoyable romp in light viewing, but slowly descends 2 the mundane. After all, you can only watch so many car chases in a 6-episode series without getting drastically bored. In a future where all the cars drive themselves, society is constantly menaced by vehicles that go berserk. This is normally a job for disgruntled Metropolitan Transit Authority workers, but in their absence, the world is stuck with a few elitist high school kids that know how 2 drive old-fashioned cars. They spend 180 minutes chasing cars (and occasionally motorcycles), but sadly never get anywhere. The hard work that the staff put into carefully rendering the cars and recording the proper engine sounds is commendable, but the story is 2 weak 2 be much more than a fun excursion for Fujishima fans. With the amount of depth in the series, viewers are better off just renting the series and using the extra money to buy a Racing Queens calendar.

Gokudo Collection Extraordinaire Box Set
Media Blasters 650 min. 1/1 $69.95 08/26/2003

Get ready to turn off your brains, bust out the caffeine, and laugh aloud at one of the most nonsensical, obtuse, slap-happy excuses for comedy ever produced. Released in a convenient boxset, this series recounts the saga of Gokudo, a man who is sent on a mission to recover a variety of items, from missing princesses to shiny baubles. Every last drop of seriousness is abandoned, resulting in a series that is 650 minutes of pure, unfiltered slapstick and cheap laughs. This is the kind of series that any intellectual would scorn at during a solitary viewing, but if played in front of a group, would make everyone in the room turn into a laughing swarm of babbling idiots. This series will make you dumb. Fortunately, it'll make you die laughing, too, which is the only conceivable reason to ever watch this. Sadly, the jokes start getting rehashed too quickly, so unless you have a severe case of amnesia, you'd better just hunt down the individual discs for a quick rental.

Countdown: Akira Saga
SoftCel Pictures 75 min. 1/1 $29.98 08/26/2003

Alright kids, number one rule of dating: don't date your best friend. That's bad. Rule number two: Don't date inside the family. Rule number three: especially if she's your sister. With those guidelines in mind, you should be able to keep yourself from becoming a hentai spectacle like Countdown: Akira Saga. This three episode OVA actually has nothing to do with its Countdown predecessors, but is just as screwed up. Akira is a pretty boy who spends all of his time trying to sleep with anything that's remotely human shaped, be it man or woman. The only thing is, they can't call him by his first name. That's reserved for his sister (or step-sister, as she's called in the American release). Because of events that transpired in his childhood, he adores his older sister and is madly in love with her, believing her to be the pinnacle of perfection and womanhood. Unfortunately, she not only is away often on modeling excursions and has a boyfriend, but is also, sadly, normal. It goes without saying that Akira is one psychologically disturbed individual, deserving of his own Springer episode. This is perhaps what makes this an interesting watch. The story centers on Akira's emotions fairly well, occasionally punctuating the scenes with still frames of sex. Albeit all the characters look exactly the same, but the way that the seedier scenes are done in stills and sketches is rather fascinating. If incest is your thing, have fun. If not, you can at least make fun of this kid for being such a nutcase.

Perishable Item

Those Who Hunt Elves 2 Vol. #1
ADV Films 150 min. 1/? $29.98 08/26/2003

Well, after finishing the first series, I had no intention of ever watching the show again, much less a sequel. Regardless of what I said, I watched Those Who Hunt Elves 2 anyway. Unfortunately, it's just as bad as the earlier series. The jokes are rehashed and unoriginal, with most of the humour residing in stripping elves. In this volume, the characters still haven't been able to find their way home and their only chance is to keep humiliating elves and make them prance around naked. And that's what they do. For 150 minutes. It's... really not funny at all. It's unfortunate that the story is so weak, as the poor animation could really use something to take a portion of viewer's attentions. If you've seen this series before, you might get a kick out of watching more slapstick stupidity, but if not, this is something you'd be best off abandoning.

Kitty Media 60 min. 1/1 $29.95 08/26/2003

Many people will agree that aside from the raunchy aspect of it, hentai is not watched for the plot, but oft times the hysterical unintended humour. Sadly, Darling has neither plot nor laughs. Rather, it's a production with beautiful artwork and carefully detailed stills that's been ruined with forced laughter and beaten silly with a writer's-block stick. The irony about the show being about a prolific manga artist did not escape me. Jun is a hard-working guy who makes his bread drawing porn. Apparently even repressed anime geeks who obsess over two dimensional girls can even get some ass, because he's actually married to his assistant. Well, he's stuck with a gigantic deadline, but luckily, he can work in hyper mode when he's turned on. Naturally, the entire flick is about some guy getting it on with his wife while he's drawing porn like crazy. It's supposed to be really inventive and cute, and maybe even comedic, but gosh, it's just so stupid. The director takes beautiful artwork and an amusing story and ruins it with bouncing breasts and lame dialogue. If you want to watch an anime about making anime, hell, watch Animation Runner Kuromi, Fancy Lala, Excel Saga—anything but this. I think the Misfits/Metallica said it best when they punctuated one of their songs with these words: Die, Die, Die My Darling.

And with that cheery note, tally ho m'dears, and be off with you. See you next week!

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