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Shelf Life Guest Column - Finals Revenge

by Allen Divers,
bbb So you're all sitting there asking yourselves, “What the heck happened to Bamboo?”. It's not a mutiny, just a little guest stint by yours truly until she gets through her finals. She managed to get the short straw when it comes to exams this year, and I got a couple of take home tests. There's nothing like a take home test to take the edge off of finals week, right? So, since I managed to get lucky, I decided to pass around a bit of my karma. Without any further ado, here are this week's releases in three quick and easy categories. My tastes are a little different than Bamboo's, so I'm sure I'll be hearing from her at some point. As it stands, I've got the wheel, and I'm in control!

Shelf Worthy

Super GALS - Ran Loves Shibuya!
ADV Films 100 min. 3/6 $29.98 12/09/2003

Comedy, romance and a girl with attitude. Yep, that about sums up this series. Always wanting to be the center of attention, our Super GAL Ran continues to show the world that she is the ultimate girl. Mentor, friend and a handful for any Shibuya boy looking to romance her, Ran continues to barrel through this series at her own manic pace. Aside from the slightly annoying ‘hip GAL rules’, this show continues to be one for the shelf. It's witty, action packed and even has a moral to the story.

Final Fantasy: Unlimited Phase 2
ADV Films 100 min. 2/7 $29.98 12/09/2003

Video game fans be warned: aside from a few creatures and a strange setting, this show seems like it has nothing to do with the Final Fantasy video games. Not a problem, as this show builds on the simple ‘quest’ formula and delves into an interesting mix of strong character types and interesting visuals. After the cliff-hanger ending of the last volume, things really begin to pick up as Ai, Yu and LiSA have made a new friend in the strange world of Wonderland. I went into this series a bit hesitant, but was thrilled by the first disc and the second disc picks up the pace and really starts to take off. Its visual style is both modern and retro creating a very unique look for a show based on the Final Fantasy franchise. This one is well worth adding to your shelf.

Neoranga - The Search for Paradise
ADV Films 120 min. 6/6 $29.98 12/09/2003

Wow, three in a row from ADV! Admittedly, it's a coincidence that these three ended up right next to each other. Neo Ranga is another series I was reluctant to pick up initially. I'd seen the first few episodes, then eventually the entire first disc. Nothing seemed to be going on. Mostly it's the 15-minute episode format that makes it difficult to sit through. Sure, the episodes come fast, but it just feels weird sitting through a recap every time you should be seeing a commercial break. For me, though, this show took off with disc two and continues to be an exciting series all the way through this last disc. At the end, Neo Ranga winds up being yet another series with themes that are definitely up for interpretation. Even through the climax, I felt like there was more to be learned. Disc 6 is a stunning conclusion to this great series.

Master Keaton – Blood & Bullets
Geneon/Pioneer 125 min. 4/? $29.98 12/09/2003

Neo Ranga will probably leave you thinking, so what better way to relax than pick up a bit of Master Keaton? Master Keaton falls more into the arena of thoughtful drama than action show. Sure, he has his moments where he's protecting a dig site or solving a murder, but this show remains down to Earth with the hero being a simple man taking care of his everyday family problems. This show relies more on the tried and true drama and suspense formulas, focusing more on dramatic moments of silence and thoughtful introspection than outright action and adventure. Master Keaton is a show for someone looking to anime for something a bit different. When it comes down to it, it's nice to see a hero who's not all that different from us. Ok, we're not all former SAS agents and archeologists working for an insurance firm, but we're closer to him than we would be to a space alien. This one is well worth including in your collection for its frank look at humanity and its well-grounded story telling.

Heat Guy J – Sins of the City
Geneon/Pioneer 100 min. 3/7 $29.98 12/09/2003

Much like Neo Ranga, this one had to grow on me. This time around, it was the visual look that turned me off initially. The trailer for Heat Guy J is one of those exciting, fast paced action teasers reminiscent of many Hollywood summer blockbusters. So, I went into this show expecting stunning visuals and a crappy story. I was wrong. There's a solid story behind Heat Guy J so the visuals simply become a bonus. A lot of this series charm is from the interaction between the characters. The stories are a bit predictable, and the outcome doesn't come across as that big of a surprise, but it's still a fun show. There's quite a bit going on in the background, and as the series progresses, each episode hints at a much bigger picture.

Rental Shelf

Yu Yu Hakusho – Tournament's End (Uncut)
FUNimation 62 min. 19/? $24.95 12/09/2003

Ok, guilty pleasure, this show is just fun. First off, this is a heck of a long series. This disc contains the conclusion of a major story arc that basically defines what the rest of this series is about. Jumping right into this series at this point would be just too confusing, so run out now and purchase the other 18 volumes before sitting down to this one. Or, if you don't mind the TV sanitized version, check your local Cartoon Network listings. Until then, best to rent this particular volume until you're sure you like the whole thing.

Inu-Yasha – Special Limited Set 1
Viz DVD 1 - 3 $49.98 12/09/2003

Rumiko Takahashi is a genius. Starting with Ranma ½, I've watched and read all of her works with great interest. As a matter of fact, Inuyasha is a series that takes elements from all her previous works and builds a truly unique adventure. Now the first three volumes are offered in a box set form much cheaper than what I originally paid for them.
It's a pretty cool looking box, too, so really, I'm just bitter. If you haven't taken the chance to buy the first three DVDs, then this is the box for you. Three DVDs for the price of two volumes, all in a nice looking box, you can't beat this. That's nine episodes of Rumiko Takahashi goodness. But if you're like me and already have the three volumes, well, we'll throw ourselves a pity party.

Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar - Home Sweet Home
Geneon/Pioneer 100 min. 5/6 $29.98 12/09/2003

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, cuteness is as cuteness does, and it doesn't get any cuter than Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar. This is one of those heartfelt tales you hear about where people are forced together and eventually learn how much they mean to each other. When you break it down there's also a lot to be learned from this, like coping with loss, and a whole bunch of other issues that just really seem out of place when you realize the show is about a bunch of fairies that control the weather! In all honesty, this is a good show, but like any intake of sugar, should probably be done in small amounts. In many ways, this show becomes something of an emotional roller coaster as it hits the end of the line. Not sure if you can handle the cuteness? Best rent this one.

Perishable Items

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku DASH! - Mode 2
ADV Films 100 min. 2/? $19.98 12/09/2003

Occasionally, a show comes along that is considered great, different, original and something worth having in your collection. Of course, if it sells too well, people get the idea that more is better and a second series comes out. Things are changed up a bit, character relationships moved around, and the formula gets mucked with in an attempt to produce something better than the original. For the powers that be that make these kinds of decisions, it doesn't always work. The fanservice is toned down a bit for this sequel, and yes, fans will go nuts over the cute cat-girl. (Well, she's a cat's brain in the body of a girl.) There are just times when the original works best, but if you must check this one out, rent it before you buy it.

Orphen II - Revenge
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $29.98 12/09/2003

While I really, really want to simply say “see the above” regarding unnecessary sequels, I guess I should actually say something about this series. To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled by the first Orphen and let me tell you, I'm just thrilled to see this one come out. You know, I was just waiting for that hot springs episode. Now my life is complete. To hearken back to the above, fans of the original will probably like it, so pick this one up at the rental shelf and try it out yourself.

Corrector Yui - Out of Sync
Viz 100 min. 3/? $29.98 12/09/2003

Right then, a computer illiterate girl must save the world from a massive computer that's taken over the world. Magical Girl, giant computer. Honestly, I've never seen this series, so when I was handed disc number three, I became greatly confused. It's cute, it's endearing, it's weird. But to be honest, been there, done that, got the t-shirt with my Angelic Layer boxset. Maybe I'm just burnt out on pseudo magical girls, but this one just didn't do it for me.

What? You hear knocking coming from behind that door? No, it's just your imagination; I don't have Bamboo tied up in there. She'll be back in two weeks time at which point she will publicly berate me for turning her column into my own little slice of heaven. So its one more week with me, then Bamboo returns!

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