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Shelf Life
ANNimation Runner Kuromi

by Bamboo Dong,
There comes a time in everyone's life when we all face the same ghastly moment of anguish and vexation. It is that moment of utter despair that makes us realize that our very lives could be hanging on the flailing trellises of limbo. We are faced with the startling shock that unless we shift our own personal technological paradigms, we will be forever trapped in a state of constant fear and self-deprecation. Yes, I'm sure you all know the source of all this strife—mouse balls.

As we all (sadly) know, if the mouse ball or the adjoining mouse wheels are not working properly, the mouse is rendered quite useless. Hand movements are hampered by jerky jumps and complete pointer standstills. This makes computational work not only exceedingly hard, but also massively frustrating. Alas, this past week, I was the victim of such a flagrant display of hardship. It was then that I learned the time-honored virtues of patience and self-motivation. Now, making sure that your mouse balls are working properly requires a lot of skill and dexterity. First of all, you must flip the mouse on its back and remove the ring so that you have access to the body cavity. Once you grab the mouse ball, rub it vigorously to make sure that a layer of dust has not settled on it. This should prep it for action again. If the surface is not sticky enough, you can carefully lick your ball to convince it to work better. Be careful though, as licking too many old balls may cause your tongue to grow numb. Now, carefully stick your finger into the cavity and probe around. If you rub against the sides, the wheels should be smooth under your touch. After too much use, however, they have a tendency to become desensitized. This is unpreventable with frequent use, as the looseness of them will usually be their downfall. So, if your wheels are stuck in a rut, make sure to get those cleaned and your ball rubbing against them tightly. Before you know it, you should be ready for slick and easy action again. With the right touch, your mouse will once again be ready to do anything for you.

And with that mousey tutorial tucked safely under your belt, sit back, relax, enjoy your Cat Soup, and allow me to commence with this week's Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Animation Runner Kuromi
Central Park Media 40 min. 1/1 $29.99 09/09/2003

Renowned for his work on fan favorites like Fruits Basket and Kodomo no Omocha, Akitarou Daichi is stamping his name on another quality production. Released by Central Park Media, Animation Runner Kuromi is a fun tale about a girl named Mikkiko who has just been given her dream job—a job in the anime industry. Inducted into Studio Petit, she is soon put in charge of making sure that Time Journey episode 2 is completed in time to air. The problem is, all of the staff is slacking off, so at their current rate, they'll never finish the episode in time! Mikkiko embarks on a mission to go around to everyone's houses (since it's easier to animate in the privacy of one's own home) to rally their efforts and try to convince them to push themselves just a tad harder. The great part of this OVA is watching Mikkiko interact with her quirky coworkers, giving viewers a sniff at what goes on in an animation studio and how each anime is made. This is enhanced by one of the extras on the feature-laden disc, an amusing commentary by Daichi that talks briefly about the characters and who each one is supposed to represent in real life. This is an especially entertaining disc for the more hardcore anime fans, as they'll be able to catch the nods towards fandom in the show, like the anime toys in the background, and the homages that certain characters pay to other animated personas. Overall, this is just one adorable show full of fun and a unique cast of characters. If you're a fan of Daichi at all, you absolutely need this on your shelves. If you just want to have a good time, though, this should already be on your list.

Boys Over Flowers Vol. #1: Declaration of War!
Viz, LLC. 100 min. 1/? $24.98 09/09/2003

Not since Marmalade Boy has a shoujo series been this designed to sell as many pointless toys as possible. From voice recorders to fortune tellers to nail scrubbers, this series snuggles up under the covers with Movic, giving fans the chance to buy every last gadget that the characters get to play with. Marketing potential aside, Boys Over Flowers, also known as Hana Dan (derived from the original name Hana Yori Dango), is one of the best shoujo series ever created. Bringing the drama and down to earth pain that accompanies real life, this show gives shoujo the good name that it deserves. Taking place at a prestigious and highly elitist private high school, the series explores not only the everyday high school problems of romance and bullying, but also the deep-rooted discriminations of class consciousness and the scorn given to poor families and the rising noveaux riche. Tsukushi is a girl from a poor family who received a scholarship to study at a select high school. Because of her family's financial status, she is bullied by everyone in her class, especially by a group of guys who call themselves the F4 (not to be confused with the girly-looking Hana Dan-influenced Taiwanese pop band). Tsukushi must deal with these boys, all while dealing with the people who look down on her, and the painful high school ordeals of romance. Unlike the happy feeling normally associated with a lot of shoujo series, Hana Yori Dango embodies a sense of melodrama and pain that makes it a vivid representation of life. Loaded with slick animation and an eerily lyrical orchestral score, Boys Over Flowers is sure to become a fast favorite with shoujo fans. If you want to experience a truly engaging story about high school life, mixed with the dark atmosphere of heartache and determination, this DVD belongs on your shelf.

Original Dirty Pair: Project Eden
ADV Films 90 min. 1/1 $24.98 09/09/2003

Reaching into the guts of 1987, ADV's managed to fish out the Dirty Pair movie, Project Eden. Packed with skimpy clothes, über destruction, 80s sci-fi looking alien things, and explosions, this movie is a lot of fun. For any person who can claim to be a fan of Dirty Pair, this movie will be one nerdgasm of nostalgia and good times. Taking place on a distant planet, there are two rival mining companies. They hire WWWA to figure out why one of the company's shipments keep getting blown up. As the girls sniff further into the story, they find out that there's a cackling evil mad scientist who, like half of anime's mad scientists, wants to create a superior breed of humans. Sporting an almost sleazy James Bond feel, this movie manages to slink around, stuffing the action and humor with plenty of fanservice and bath scenes. Truly, it's the epitome of all that is Dirty Pair. If you've ever seen any DP at all, you know just what I mean, and you know just why any fan of this franchise absolutely must have this on his/her shelf. If you're a newcomer, well, now's the time to get crackin'.

RahXephon Vol. #5: Synaesthesia
ADV Films 75 min. 5/7 $29.98 09/09/2003

Any DVD named Synaesthesia is, by default, good. Really. You don't waste cool names on bad stuff. Luckily, it lives up to its name by continuing the dark, tragic epic that is RahXephon. Throwing itself into the war, the story gingerly explores the themes of betrayal and sacrifice, prodding at the undersides of humanity that are so often eagerly explored in anime titles. Torn between two worlds that have abandoned him, Ayato must face the secrets that are being revealed around him. With the battlefields soaked in blood, there's nothing but more grief to greet him wherever he looks. Truly one of the best mecha series ever made, RahXephon is a classy show that takes the concepts of drama and anguish and weaves them into a troubling series with a rich story and an engaging plot. If you haven't seen this series yet, get off your lazy butt and step to it. This is something that no one should miss.

Cat Soup w/ Limited Edition Liquid Art Pack
Central Park Media 34 min. 1/1 $24.99 09/09/2003

Cat Soup
Central Park Media 34 min. 1/1 $19.99 09/09/2003

Duuuuuuuuuude... like... there's these like, pigs and stuff, huh? And they actually EAT each other! And then there's liquid elephants, man! Like... woah dude! Surprisingly, that's not far off from the experience viewers get from CPM's new release, Cat Soup. An experimental short made in 2001, this OVA encaptures an almost hallucinogenic feeling as it follows the bizarre adventure of two cats. The brother cat goes on a journey to retrieve his sister's stolen soul, but to restore her back to her original self, the two must travel further to obtain a flower that they need. Along the way, they encounter a host of unimaginable things like water elephants and cannibalistic pigs. The story isn't complex at all, but the show carries a very unique and uncanny feeling about it. Laced in a predominantly dark atmosphere, with bright splotches of color to designate the characters and the bizarre scenes along the way, it's one of those works that really can't be described outside of... experimental... and hallucinatory... I can't quite pinpoint quite what this flick is, but I certainly know that it's something that I'll be wanting to watch again in the future—once my brain recovers.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #8: Unveiling
Central Park Media 100 min. 8/10 $29.99 09/09/2003

Oh, wow. Wow, wow, wow. I keep thinking I'll eventually get bored of Utena, but it's kind of hard if they keep dangling good episodes in front of my face, tempting me for more and more. This disc even had an amazing recap episode! That never happens! The first two episodes on the disc cater to Nanami fans, as they watch her jealousies mount against the girls chasing after Touga. Just to throw in a lightning bolt of shock into the mix, something intriguing is revealed about the relationship between her and Touga—or lack of. And just when things are getting interesting, a recap episode is thrown in. And it's awesome. Showing a hotel room in real life, viewers get to see Utena stretched out lazily in casual clothes, talking about anything and everything. Giving fans the chance to see her in a more natural environment, her entire personality seems to change. Gone is the tough-girl attitude, replaced by a soft, pensive, and conversational Utena that draws viewers in and invites them to experience her true self. This isn't the best set of Utena episodes out there, but boy, they're good.

Sakura Wars The Movie Limited Edition
Pioneer Animation 85 min. 1/1 $39.98 09/09/2003
Sakura Wars The Movie Standard Edition
Pioneer Animation 85 min. 1/1 $29.98 09/09/2003

With lush artwork and an almost arrogant soundtrack, the Sakura Wars movie feels like an opera, or even the light touch of a Moscow ballet production. Adding itself to the obscenely long list of Sakura Wars incarnations, this is the perfect addition to the existing collection of shows and games. Unfortunately, without there being a US release of the video games, all the movie can really ever hope to be is a fun addition for fans of the OVA and TV series, or as a nice standalone. The story is straightforward and easy to follow, but many of the subtleties that make nods towards events that happened in the games are lost to casual viewers. As with most Sakura Wars fights, the girls are pitted against a variety of demons and generic bad things. What makes this more refreshing than the TV series, though, is the character interaction. The girls have now formed a tight unit, and the teamwork between them is interesting to watch, as it brings out the natures of each individual all the better. Throw in some internal conflicts and politicking, and what's left over is a movie that is oddly satisfying, even if a bit vapid. But, as with all good ballets, the story is only a vehicle for movement and sound, and that's what Sakura Wars excels at. While the music is dreadfully boring by itself, it works itself amazingly into the movie, giving this production a flair that is absolutely irresistible.

Rental Shelf

Chobits Vol. #4: Love Defined
Pioneer Animation 100 min. 4/7 $29.98 09/09/2003

There is a point in every shounen romance/android/maid/etc series where all the characters round up and go to the beach, followed by vague advances by an ill-intentioned teacher. Without fail, this is the perfect device to recapture all the waning audience interest and make sure fanboys lose enough blood through nosebleeds to make their minds sufficiently light-headed enough for the coming of the second half. Such is the fate of Chobits, where all the characters do indeed gather round and head off to the beach. After some amusing adventures and long legs galore, the disc settles back into a comfortable, relaxed pace. Hideki is straddled with the problems of having to deal with a boatload of whiny girls, all while trying to study for his exams. While these episodes fit snugly into the series, the pacing gets thrown off a little. Interrupting the increasingly mysterious atmosphere of the series, the show takes a break from its allegorical pondering about man vs. machine long enough to flash some skin before plunging into the last half. Concentrating largely on fan pandering and character building, these four episodes do a good job of making sure viewers get their chance to just have one shot of pure fun with their favorite personas. Nothing on this disc is truly earth-shattering, but entertainment is entertainment, so if you're looking for something to do this week, Chobits will be fun for you. Just don't be expecting too heavy of a plot advancement.

Perishable Item

Night Shift Nurses: RN's Revenge Xtreme Series Edition
Anime 18 60 min. 2/? $29.98 09/09/2003

I truly couldn't find the words to describe what I was thinking while I watched this, so allow me to illustrate my train of thought with a series of pictures.

Night Shift Nurses 2 is SOOO wrong. I thought Night Shift Nurses was wrong, but this takes that series, pulls down its panties, spanks it in the rear, throws it out a window, and then eats its excrement. Oh wait, that's not far removed from NSN2, minus the window throwing. I was watching this with my eyes wide open, my jaw dropped to the floor, pointing and twitching convulsively, unable to comprehend the madness on my screen, yet too fascinated/scared to tear my eyes away. It's almost useless to speak of the story—as there is almost none. Some perverted doctor takes a patient's sister, finds out a dark secret about her, and spends 60 minutes doing absurd things to her, and making her do equally absurd things, providing a nasty-fest of humiliation and things that are just plain sick and wrong. That's pretty much it. But the things that they do... ! With... excrement! And... eggs! And... and... WOW. I'm truly at a loss for words. Viewers who are squeamish and faint of heart—this is definitely not the thing for you. At the same time, it's so unintentionally hysterical. This is definitely one of those things you'd rent if you've got a crowd of friends coming over and you all want to booze up and laugh together. But if there's one reason why you should watch it, it's because of the audio mix. The folks at Anime 18 actually made it surround sound, I kid you not. The speaker check in the beginning is a guy wanking off in surround sound. So, make no mistake, this is one of the worst things ever created in the history of mankind. But hell, if you need something to kill your brain in the worst way possible, this is the way to go. And did I mention it includes all of the scenes that were cut out of the US release of Night Shift Nurses 1?

And with that Shelf-Worthy filled week, I must be off, so traipse to the stores, and I'll see you next week!

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