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Shelf Life
Material girl in a material world

by Bamboo Dong,
No matter how much time and energy you spend on the interior decoration of your musty dorm room or derelict shared apartment, putting up tapestries, or properly aligning your furniture to match the feng shui guide you got for a dollar at the college bookstore bargain bin, the entire mood can be killed by one of your roommate's bad posters. How can you recreate the Essence of the Tiger aura as pictured in your magazines if your roommate has a half-naked picture of Josh Hartnett or a Cool World poster slapped haphazardly across their walls with FunTak? That's when it's time to fight back and unleash the anime fan within. Push back their trashy O-Town pinup with a Kenshin wallscroll and their Bring It On DVD with your copy of Orgazmo Jin-Roh. Of course, if they bring out the posters of the Olsen twins, it's time to fight back with your ultimate weapon.

I was cruising around on Anime Jungle earlier this week when I stumbled across the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on. Standing at a proud six feet, this regal sentry stands ready to guard your room and attack passersby with the nostalgia of Great Mazinger. Of course, if you want to build your own army, there are even more robots in the toy line, including Grendizer, Giant Robo, and the various Tetsujin 28s. There's even a 5'2” Gamera, to give your room that extra bang. Retailing from a whopping 298,000 to 380,000 yen ($2,545-$3,246), these plastic demons may carry a hefty price, but without a doubt are worth the dough for all the (ridiculously rich/insane) fans of old robot shows out there. Forget hanging up scrolls of half naked Love Hina girls to scare away your roommate, or even a poster of all 150 Pokemon—these behemoths are where it's all at. Imagine how cool it would be if you mounted a laser to their eyes.

But until then, please take off your shoes and follow me this way into my humble abode. Allow me to usher you into my world of robots and fantasy and kogyaru style in this week's—Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Super Gals Vol. #01: Gotta Have Heart (also w/box)
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $34/98 09/16/2003
Super Gals Vol. #01: Gotta Have Heart
ADV Films 125 min. $29.98 09/16/2003

Move over, Hilary Duff; move over, Olsen Twins. It's time to immerse yourself in a fun new style of teen shows and join the Super GALS as they strut the streets of Shibuya, home of the blondest women in Japan. Known in Japanese society as kogals, these girls sport loose socks, carry picture-taking Sanyo flip phones, and chatter excitedly as they walk around flirting with boys and eating Pocky. Quite frankly, they're a terror to Japan's traditional older generations. Enter Ran and her friends, carefree girls who want to live up their materialistic teen lives while they can. Dealing with issues of uptight parents, aggravating boys, and enjokosai, the girls are there to do whatever they can for each other. Random and story-less as the series might be, these five episodes are a refreshing blast of air in the world of anime. With the emotionally-led adventures of these light-hearted gals, this is definitely a show to keep track of. Giving viewers a glimpse of Japanese pop society and the issues surrounding modern high schoolers, Super GALS embodies the spirit of teenaged girls like nothing else can. You can't pass this up.

Big O Collectors Set
Bandai Entertainment 325 min. 1/1 $44.98 09/16/2003

Pour the wine, slick back your hair, and adjust your suit, 'cuz baby, “it's showtime!” The first season of Big O is now available in a sleek collectors set from Bandai Entertainment and I'm sure fans couldn't be more happy. Embodying the very image that defines class and style, the dark gothic atmosphere of the series gives it the surly edge that makes it one of the best anime shows to ever air on Adult Swim. Starring a man that gives James Bond a run for his garters, the series is about a negotiator named Roger Smith who dwells in a city where the annals of memory were wiped away forty years ago in a tragic incident. Helped out by his gun-toting butler and an android named Dorothy, Roger keeps the city guarded from harm and the pains of the past (and viewers from ennui) with his trusty engineering marvel, the Big O. Armed with exciting story-telling and elegant animation, the Big O fleshes out its sophisticated air with a soundtrack that ranges from orchestral overtures to soft jazzy riffs. Anime has never been as chic as this.

Ceres, Celestial Legend Collectors Edition Vol. #1
Viz, LLC. 300 min. 1/2 $49.98 09/16/2003

From the woman who brought anime fans the interminably popular Fushigi Yuugi and the chance to happily write slash fiction for the rest of their lives, Ayashi no Ceres is here once again to appease fans with its dark shoujo twists and eerie scenes. Released on individual discs in 2001, Watase Yuu's anime-adapted series was an immediate favorite with those familiar with her earlier works. Encompassing the same bloody traits of betrayal, death, and heartbreak, the series is a poignant story of a girl named Mikage Aya and her struggles with the vengeful souls of the past. On her sixteenth birthday, she and her twin brother Aki learn that they are recipients of the family curse, hosts to the reincarnated spirits of their ancestors. As per family tradition, the female must be killed before the heavenly being within her can throw the daggers of revenge and destroy all the male heirs. Mass pandemonium breaks out and from there on out, only pain exists for Aya as she and her newfound friends help her fight her destiny. While the episodes come off as rather slow and dull at times, the story is still intriguing enough to force viewers to keep popping in disc after disc. It's certainly not as light-hearted or fun as Watase's other series, but with the amount of pain and angst that can be woven into one show, it's worth watching just for the emotional experience.

Rental Shelf

Initial D Vol. #01
TOKYOPOP 100 min. 1/? $19.98 09/16/2003

Start your engines, drive with a vengeance! ... No. But I will watch Initial D. With a release so laced in controversy like this one, it's hard to say all that needs to be said in such a short blurb. As almost everyone must know by now, two versions of Initial D were released on the disc, a “Classic” version and a “Tricked Version” ...word. Let's talk about the Classic version first. The story is about a guy named Takumi (Tak) who drives a tofu delivery car. Sooner or later, he gets roped into a downhill street racing team because he's the best driver in town, so the series follows him and his personal ordeals, as well as his quest to be the best racer he can be. While the story may sound stupid, it's oddly addicting and almost exhilarating. The CG car races get repetitive after awhile, but they're still exciting enough to pull viewers to the edge of their seats, even if they don't give a fig about cars (before watching the series!). It's certainly something that everyone needs to try at least once.

So now let's get our talk on about da Tricked Out version, dawg. Posshizzlin' the worst opening and ending tunez since the Dragonbawl Z intro, izza damn shame that they had to replace Move's kickin' beats wit unbearable hip hop like ain't none ever stanked befo'. Da names be changed to my homeboy tags like Tak and Izzy and shizzle, yo. Maaaan, yeah, and wuz a real kick in the bawlz is dat there ain't no reg'lar English dub track. So fans o' dubbed cartooonz are gunna hafta either deal wit da Tricked Out version, or watch da Japanizzle version. While I think Tokyopop was justified in Americanizing the series for a television release, I think they could have handled the DVD release better. It would have been nice to include a straight-forward English dub, and then throw on the “Tricked Out” version as an additional language track. Truly, that version is so far removed from the original that it's entertaining to watch, but har'cor' dub fans are certainly going to be angry. At least there's always Classic. It redeems the entire show.

GTO Vol. #10
TOKYOPOP 100 min. 10/10 $29.98 09/16/2003

After I watched the GTO live-action series, the anime series completely lost all appeal for me, especially Miyabi, which is a shame. However, I managed to abandon my favoritism and enter this viewing session with a clear mind, free of biases. Sadly, it didn't help that the last volume of GTO didn't match up even halfway to the previous volumes. In the last four episodes, Onizuka seizes his chance during the class field trip to deal with Miyabi. Will this be the end of his career, or will he be known as the best teacher the school has ever had? Apparently, the scriptwriters didn't really care, churning out an end product that is rushed and just altogether lame. Uninspiring and unbelievable, it didn't even try to capture the ideals sported by the manga and the earlier episodes. Instead of bringing a heartwarming finale to a tale about trusting teachers in a society where the children have been betrayed and led astray, viewers get hosed with 100 minutes of rushed fluff and forced emotions. With such a strong block of episodes preceding it, it was a heavy disappointment to see it end like this.

Noir Vol. #6: Cloaks & Daggers
ADV Films 100 min. 6/7 $29.98 09/16/2003

As the series races towards its finale, it leaves behind a long trail of revelations to keep viewers interested. Exploring the history of the Soldats, as well as the divisions that have popped up within their midst, viewers can get a more solid look at the organization, and how it impacts the girls. With the introduction of the second faction, the story takes another turn as it sets up for the final 100m dash into the end. While the revelations may follow your standard Noir-esque pattern, they still do a good job of shaking things up a bit. The character relationships continue to bend and move as jealousies and insecurities get in the way, and its this dynamic web of trust and betrayal that makes the characters so fun to watch. The series has picked up from its dull pace, so it'll be interesting to see how things pan out in the last volume.

Brigadoon Vol. #3: The Celestial World
TOKYOPOP 100 min. 3/6 $29.99 09/16/2003

With a box that screams “Eating Little Girls® for breakfast is Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!,” Brigadoon suffers from what I call Unit Test Syndrome. You know all you need to know for the test, but once it's over, you automatically delete it from your mind. That's how utterly unmemorable this series is. This isn't to say that the series itself isn't entertaining to watch. It is—and as long as you're watching it, I'm sure you'll have a good time. The instant the DVD is taken out of the tray though, the memory of the series manages to disappear along with it. The disc opens up with Marin mourning over the loss of one of her family members. Before she's given the chance to express her sorrow, she's whisked away by the president of the US to help embark on a mission to stop the forces of Brigadoon. As she finds herself in space with a new purpose, she slowly learns the truth behind Melan, and who the people around her really are. See, with a story like that, you'd think it'd be really exciting, but I'll bet you anything that by the time you've read to the end of this column, you'll have forgotten what Brigadoon even is. That's the same feeling you get watching the series. It's entertaining to watch, sure, but once it's gone, it's gone. Need a reason to not do your history reading for class this week? Check out Brigadoon, but don't worry, it won't be on the final.

Geneshaft Vol. #3
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 3/4 $29.98 09/16/2003

Pop quiz: what's a funnier name: the Shaft, the Ring, or Lord Sneak? I'm rather partial to Lord Sneak myself, if only because he's one hell of an amusing character. With this series nearing the finale, things are finally getting thrown into the clear, pushing the story forward a few notches. As the characters give up on dealing with the Rings, a change of command is in order on the ship as the leader falls ill. In the meanwhile, the motivations of the main players are finally unearthed, with one group wanting to eradicate humanity from the universe, and the other wanting to preserve it eternally. The ship certainly doesn't have much time to deal with ideological difference though, as they're swarmed with a host of rash terrorist attacks. As the pending war looms closer, the story climaxes are climbing in staggered cliffs around the viewer, just waiting for the apexes to be pulled together into a more cohesive ending. What we have is a set of great ideas that just need to be brought together. It's certainly not the best example of sci-fi you're going to find out there, but nothing passes time like plans for universal annihilation.

Alright kiddos, that's it for today. See you next time!

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