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Shelf Life
Kurisumasu Edition!

by Bamboo Dong,
It's finally that time of the year. Finals are over, corporate vacations have been doled out, and there's not a single mall Santa who hasn't been sat on by over a hundred children. Whether you live in a small town or a gaping metropolis, holiday cheer is seeping from every streetlamp and Christmas tree. Regardless of location, Downtown Crossing or the local Wal-Mart, speakers are cheerfully blaring the sounds of Bing Crosby, the Boston Pops, and the latest off the Jive Records Holidays with Popstar X CD line. Clearly, the time for mass consumerism has begun.

There are three main types of Christmas shoppers out there. There are those who like getting their seasonal gift giving done as soon as possible and get their shopping list crossed off two hours after stores open for their annual post-Thanksgiving Day sale. There are also those that start shopping for gifts months in advance, racking their brains for hours on end, just to find the perfect gift for every single last person in their life. Then there are people like me who wait until the last conceivable minute to get their shopping done. By that time though, desperation has already set in and there isn't enough time to figure out what to get people.

Luckily, for the anime fan in your life, there is always anime. But even with a surefire gift of an anime DVD wrapped in shiny red paper, there's still the chance of completely goofing up and giving the world's worst present. That's where Shelf Life comes in. I'm here to present to you the official Shelf Life Last Minute Christmas Shopping Guide. From gifts for your loved ones, to your close friends, to some casual acquaintance you just got to know, there's always the perfect gift.

Come on in and welcome to this year's Shelf Life—Christmas edition.

The Collection

If you're willing to fork over the cash or credit, there will always be the popular option of buying anime collections. This is a surefire way to guarantee the recipient a block of great anime without having to buy the entire series. Sparing them the annoyance of receiving just one DVD with a possible cliffhanger at the end, this will whet their appetite for the series and leave them with the option of whether or not they want to finish off the show on their own. Here are some recommendations:

Great Teacher Onizuka (DVD 1-5)

If every anime DVD on this list could be related to Christmas, this would be the drunken elf that everyone laughs at during the company party, slammed off too much eggnog and Schweaty Balls. You know the one. The panty-peeker, the guy telling the same stupid joke every five minutes... this is the guy trying to get it on with everything in the room. Collecting the first half of this fantastic comedy, this DVD set is a great way to bring laughter to someone this holiday season. Starring the adventures of an ex-motorcycle gang head who aspires to be a teacher, it combines laughs and an inspirational storyline that is hard to pass up. As he clears hurdle after hurdle in earning his students' trust and respect, the viewer can't help but gravitate towards the characters. Although the episodes get a bit repetitive after awhile, the underlying emotion keeps the show running. Mixed with all the hilarious antics of Onizuka, fans of slapstick and lecherous humour will be writing you thank you cards for the next three months.

Rurouni Kenshin - Wandering Samurai Premium Box Set
Media Blasters

Ahh... the pinnacle of shopping excellence. The first season of Rurouni Kenshin. A magical gift that will light up your Christmas tree, bake your cookies for you, and bedeck the foyer with reindeer and snow. This is Rudolph, the red nosed samurai reindeer. It shines through the night, heralding the happiness of perfect gift giving. This DVD set may not be the best pick out of the series, but it's Kenshin, and Kenshin is wonderful. Following the life of a ronin as he tries vainly to atone for the murderous sins he committed during the last year of the Tokugawa era, the path that he takes and the obstacles he must clear provide the perfect backdrop for an entertaining series. Weaving the perfect combination of humor, mad sword fighting skills, drama, suspense, and Meiji era history, Rurouni Kenshin is a series that was built to make people love anime. The first season may turn off some viewers with its frivolousness, but as the story progresses, the strong undertones are enough to propel the series into what is arguably one of the best story arcs to ever be animated.

Fruits Basket
If the Kenshin boxset is the pinnacle of shopping excellence, then Fruits Basket is Santa Claus. Christmas (and the perfect anime collection) doesn't start until this fat guy and all his clones are stationed at every mall and street corner across the world. This bends the rules of this category a bit since it's a full series, but with it being on only four discs and subject to FUNimation's excellent pricing, this falls right off the store shelves and into someone's holiday stocking. Words cannot describe the raw emotions one feels while watching this beauty. It may not be a visual masterpiece and the story may sound hokey (a girl finds out that a family is haunted by zodiac animal spirits? They turn into animals when they get hugged by a member of the opposite sex? What the bloody hell?), but given a brief chance, it will zoom into the hearts of all who dare to gaze upon it. Seldom are there shows that can puppeteer viewer emotions like Fruits Basket, but it's worth every last minute of it.

City Hunter - Season 1/2/3 Collection DVD Set
Ever wonder how Vixen the reindeer got his name? He was the horniest, most flirtatious reindeer in the herd, that's how. Like reindeer, like detective, as the City Hunter boxsets sweep in some hot (wish they could be) lovin' this holiday season to melt all the snow and warm the heart. Sporting a suave, ladies man disposition, an insatiable love for the ladies, and slick fighting skills to rival any James Bond from Connery to Brosnen, master detective Ryo is the answer to your Christmas shopping conundrums. Available in season chunks, just one of these will satisfy the action-craving fan on your Christmas list. Ryo is an expert detective for hire, basing his job selection criteria largely on whether or not a woman is asking him, and also how beautiful she is. Comedy, action, ass, guns—do I hear the sound of wrapping paper?

Inu Yasha - Special Limited Edition Set 1 (DVD 1-3)
Sho-Pro Enter

With the way this title raced through the giggly Live Journals and fan fiction circles in America, this title must surely be Comet. If you have any squealing fangirls you need to placate, this is the title for you. Granted, this would make a nice gift for anime consumers of both genders, but this is the 100% surefire gift to get that “OMG SESSHOUMARU!!!!!!!!!!!!!” lover that you know. Do it, and you'll be the favorite uncle/dad/friend/brother/etc for the rest of the decade. Not only does your little glomping squealer get the first three DVDs out of this fan-favorite series, but also an ultra-pretty 2004 Inu Yasha calendar, a mini poster, and did I mention that it comes in a super shiny box? Typical school girl Kagome gets thrown into a bishie-filled adventure when she falls into a well and lands in a mystical land, filled with demons and ghosts and furry characters. As she embarks on a journey full of bad vs. good fighting, the audience is able to trace the growing web of intricate character relationships, lending the series a depth that is normally lacking in a repetitive show of this nature. If the person you're shopping for likes Inu Yasha at all, this is a complete no brainer.

Ayashi no Ceres Collection 1/2
Pretty boys with wings? Identical looking men dressed up in Filene's Basement women's clothing? Gotta be Prancer, the effeminate reindeer with the painted hooves, but also the meanest horns of the bunch. Watase Yuu may not be able to draw characters that have the luxury of looking different from each other, but at least she can pen one mighty fine story. Ayashi no Ceres is certainly no exception. Telling a tale of revenge and betrayal, the story is a tragic one about a set of twins who discover that they are the reincarnated spirits of a man and a heavenly being. The bad part is that these two spirits are out to kill each other, so they have to duke it out through a bloodbath of family secrets and corporate conspiracies. Somewhere in the middle, Watase even manages to sneak in a heavy romantic angle and a boatload of bishounen. There isn't a single spoiled rotten shoujo fan out there that won't love this series, so if you want to be remembered as the “cool” gift giver this year, this is the present idea for you.

The Premium Super Excellent Big Dai Awesome Collection Version 2.0 Reloaded

This is similar to The Collection, except really souped up, tricked out, and for really rich people who have a shopping addiction. And unless the person you're shopping for is really ridiculously important to you, saved your life, or bloody spoiled, this present has the downside of coming off as you trying too much to gain their favor. Because we're not just talking convenient box sets here. We're talking about the whole damned thing. Those of you with commitment issues, stay away.

Berserk DVD Collection
Media Blasters

Ask any number of people and chances are, a big chunk of them will tell you that their favorite series is Berserk. So this Christmas, if it's holiday cheer you're spreading, give them treachery and warfare to brighten up their day. Like that new 3D Imax flick they have out now, with the audience favorite, generally friendly snowman trying to kill Santa Claus. In the series, a new king has lay claim to the territory of Midland, ruling with an iron fist of violence and Machiavellianism. Then one day, our knight in flashy armor comes to save the day. Armed with a past of secrets and all his buddies in tow, he marks the show with charismatic action and damned good story telling. If you have a wad of cash sitting in your wallet, this will guarantee a gushy thank you letter for sure.

The Big Easy

Movies. Everyone loves movies. The best part is, picking one out and buying one requires almost no brain power at all. With all the awesome titles that have been released this year, shoving one of these under the tree will not only be a cheap and hassle-free answer to your shopping worries, but will make the recipient feel like you actually spent a lot of time thinking about their present.

Picking out the right movie is as easy as hovering over the Stover's chocolate box (with the printed flavor guide under the cover) and deciding which flavor you want.

Spirited Away
Buena Vista

Mm... a milk chocolate square with a squiggle on top. Always caramel. If you don't like caramel, you haven't lived. Spirited Away, winner of an Oscar for best animated feature film, this is one of the best movies released and perfect for anime fans of all ages. If they don't already have this movie, you need to give them this.

Millennium Actress

Dark chocolate truffle, it's a sophisticated film that recounts the life of actress Chiyoko Fujiwara. Taking the viewer on a journey blurring between reality and entertainment, this breathtaking movie will be sure to please fans of cinema and Satoshi Kon with its visual beauty and powerful story.

Cat Soup
Central Park Media

No one ever knows what that chocolate with the white gooey filling is, even with the description in front of them. It doesn't taste bad... but it doesn't taste... normal, either. The same thing is true for Cat Soup. Filled to the brim with surreal visuals that take the viewer through a hallucinogenic ride through the supernatural, this movie is all at once friendly and... not normal. After a cat's soul is stolen by Death, she and her brother embark on a disturbing and somewhat fascinating odyssey to retrieve it. This is the kind of present you give along with a bottle of Skyy.

Cardcaptor Sakura The Movie 2: the Sealed Card
Nadesico: Prince of Darkness

These titles are the orange creams and the strawberry creams. They're yummy, but to fully enjoy them, they're somewhat of an acquired taste. This means that unless the person you're shopping for is a known fan of either of these series, they probably won't get a whole lot of bang out of these movies. If they like them though, you're in the clear.

Junkers Come Here

HO HO HO!! I'm Santa Claus, but you can call me Yoonkers! No, no little Timmy; chocolate is bad for you! It causes cavities and gives you a fat ass! Here's an orange instead! Junkers Come Here is the one DVD that belongs on every family shelf next to the stack of Disney videos. And Spirited Away. Presenting a heart-warming story about a girl and her talking dog, it covers topics like divorce and absentee parenting without seeming patronizing at all. This is a video that all parents can watch with their children.

The Christmas Curse

The biggest mistake you can make this year is the following: giving someone the first DVD to a series... that also comes with the art box. This may seem like a good idea, especially if it comes with a really nice figure (like Last Exile) or a nice “beverage glass” (like Witch Hunter Robin), but this forces the other person to pretty much finish buying the series if they want to fill up the box. Only do this if you're really, really sure that this person will love the series. Or if you really dislike this person and you know that they're a known shopaholic and you're just itching to make this person waste all of their money on anime, leaving them cold, lonely, sobbing heap of debt and silvery discs. But preferably the former.

The Porn ‘n’ Kiddy Set

Note: this is not to be mistaken with “kiddy porn.” That's another subject entirely that we will not discuss. This the annoying gag gift where you get five boxes packaged inside each other with a plastic dog turd in the middle. The Porn ‘n’ Kiddy Set is a gift that I recommend getting close acquaintances of yours—they're not quite “friends,” but they're not exactly strangers, either. It's best delivered with a card that bears the simple message, “So I heard you like that crazy Japanese anime stuff. That's just, like, kiddy cartoons and porn, right?” Of course, this also hinges upon the other person having a sense of humour. If they do, and if they'll see the comedic value behind such a bundle, then all you have to do is pick one title from each of these columns, and you're set. I recommend the following:
Kiddy: Pokemon, Beyblade, or my personal favorite, Hamtaro - Ham-Ham Times The First Issue (DVD 6)
Porn: How many times can I recommend this title? Not because it's good, but because it's the most frightening thing I've ever laid eyes on. The one and only: Nightshift Nurses 2—with surround sound. They do things with eggs and feces that you never would've imagined. Well, you might've imagined it, but the animator's were sick enough to make it happen. And then there's Holy Virgins. Lesbian nuns having wild crazy hospital sex. Nasty... and that's why you have to buy it.

The Gift that Says: “I Hate You.”

This is the Easter Bunny of Christmas. It's not supposed to be there, and if it is there, it's just some old guy trying to beat up little kids in a bunny suit. This is the ultimate gift that says, “I hate you and I was forced to give you a present. Damn you.” My picks?

Love Hina Again

This show was made for fans that enjoy Love Hina so much they have Love Hina briefs, Naru pillows, and run around the house murmuring “Shinobu-chan kawaii desu... ... ” Or boys who don't have a fast enough internet connection to download porn. Taking everything that Love Hina has ever stood for, this show insults fans of the series by loading it with so much pointless fanservice and random pseudo-lesbianism that all the plot that has been established up to this point is thrown out the window. If you want to give a good gift, give them part of the TV series, or the Christmas special. Not this.

Professor Pain
Anime 18

Rape, public humiliation, sadism—if this kind of stuff turns you on, you are one sick bastard. If you really hate the person you're giving this to, this is the kind of gift you make them open in front of their mother, prefixed with “you told me you've been wanting this all year, I just had to!” But really, I can't imagine hating anyone enough to give them the tragedy of receiving this on a happy holiday like Christmas.

Alright everyone, the stores close soon! Still haven't done any Christmas shopping yet? What are you waiting for? Stop reading and get out there!

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