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Shelf Life
The customer is always right

by Bamboo Dong,
Longtime fans of anime have undoubtedly had one question cross their minds at some point in the lives: when did Wal-Mart start selling anime? Yeah, there's no question that anime has covered a lot of territory over the years. From 6th generation raws taped off Japanese TV stations to hard-to-find VHS dub releases, to an expanding DVD market, to this tidal wave, anime has certainly expanded its base. Even so, anime remains a niche market despite the number of YuGiOh cardboard stand-ups that can be seen grinning at kids from every store corner. According to the US Census Bureau, 83% of the United States population lives in a metropolis, and 10% live in cities of larger than 10,000 (but less than 50,000) people. This may seem like a huge chunk of the population pie, but when you consider how many people live in the States, one conclusion can be made clear: a hell of a lot of people don't live near a Virgin Megastore or Suncoast. So when these people want their anime, they have to turn to the Internet and the wide world of online shopping.

Currently residing in a college-containing ghettropolis that doesn't even have a Blockbuster or a Wal-Mart, I've also had to turn my shopping enthusiasm online. While I've dealt with many a company, and have had fabulous results with most of them, there have only been two stores in particular that I've had to turn to their customer service for. The first is Anime Nation, a retailer (and now licensor) of anime products and imported goods that also provides a magazine subscription service for titles like Newtype Japan and others. Let me tell you, they have the fastest customer service I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Every time you send them an e-mail, they usually answer it the same day with confirmation that they have done what you asked, or have solved whatever problem it was you had. Speedy, efficient—one word: badass.

The other company is J-List. Famous for their retail of Hello Kitty massagers and porn books, this is the place to go for everything random and Japanese. From loose socks to bubble gum to the aforementioned porn books, they're one of my favorite places to shop. After my last run in with their customer service though, I would have lost my faith in them if it weren't for something called “second chances.” I had ordered a shirt from them and after their e-mailing me for the umpteenth time inquiring after details that were already in my order (i.e. what size, what style), communication ended. Months went by. The credit card was charged, but the shirt was missing. A cautious e-mail revealed that the shirt was now out of stock, and that I hadn't answered an e-mail that I never received. A refund was asked for. No reply. Months went by. I politely e-mailed them again, and to my surprise, a different employee responded to me. Instead of making me wait a week for e-mail responses like the guy who normally answered their e-mails, this guy was helpful, prompt, and the perfect poster child for excellent customer service. That's all it took to pacify my months of anger. J-List is a great store with mountains of great products. They just need more employees to handle the e-mail. If you ever find yourself needing to e-mail them, and they don't respond within a week, start e-mailing them every day. Maybe they'll eventually get the hint that fast service equals more customers. Here's to the nice guy who finally answered my e-mail and put my mind to rest.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

L/R Vol. #2 - Targets
Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc. 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 01/27/2004

If the classy dub and its suave British accents don't wet your whistle, nothing will. Starting the show with a deadly sniper hunt, the Royal Agents are sent out to protect the next victim from the shooter's deadly sights. Little do they know that the crosshairs are being aimed at them the entire time. As that shindig runs down, the DVD diverges a little and explores a bit more of how Ishtar works, the place where L/R takes place. With terrorist attacks and sexy women, the arc picks up the pace a bit as the story bumps into Noelle again. With its slick James Bond aura, Licensed by Royalty is a show that definitely shows a lot of promise. Armed with fluid animation and an attaché case full of jivin' tunes, this is a show that will hit a lot of fan sweet spots. Check this one out for sure.

Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #1 - The Legend Returns
Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc. 100 min. 1 $29.98 01/27/2004

Joining the masterminds of Rintaro and the famed Leiji Matsumoto, a 13-episode OVA series was created that stroked the ideals of virility, resurrected the power of damn good space operas, and would give Matsumoto fanatics wet dreams for the rest of their lives. The days of outlaws have passed and the universe is now at peace. The last one has just been caught, and the infamous pirate captain Herlock is believed to be dead. Well, no, the bloody show is named after him, so a reference to his presence pops in and we're on our way. Cue some old man and his kid Tadashi. The old man knows the secret of a sacred planet that holds a massive power. The kid has a power... he sees dead people. Well, just his dad's dead body and the four freaky corpses floating above him waiting to add him to the body count. Like all dramatic “NO! PAPA! AND NOW ME!!!” scenes in anime, the hero (Herlock) bounds in to save the day, and we're set for the grand adventure and a fight for Earth and the future of mankind. If you profess even a tiny bit of interest in Matsumoto, this show is perfect for you. This belongs on your shelf.

Rental Shelf

Ayane's High Kick
Central Park Media 60 min. 1/1 $19.99 01/27/2004

If the cold weather and schoolwork has you down in the dumps, this cute OVA will be a good way to give your spirits the high kick they need (har har). Ayane is a spunky girl that has a passion for pro wrestling. When a shady guy on the street offers to train her, naturally she jumps at the chance. When she enters her first match though, she finds out that the guy tricked her into doing kickboxing. Disclaimer: this show is not supposed to be realistic in any way. Just from the training alone, even Jessica Simpson could figure out the difference between kickboxing and pro wrestling. Like a crazier, Jolt-chugging Yawara, she explodes onto the sports scene and runs into bitchy rich girls who want to slap her down. Of course, she's not the type of girl to give up so easily. Supported by a nutty cast of characters with personalities more colorful than a parade, this is a fun show that will cheer up almost anyone. The series was started in Japan, but was never completed, so what you end up with is one DVD and one hell of a cliffhanger that just disappears into vapor. It's pretty goofy though, so it may not be your cup of caffeine, but that's what the rental place is for.

Figure 17 Vol. #3 - Valiant Duet
Media Blasters 94 min. 3 $29.98 01/27/2004

Watching kids run around putting on school plays and going through what looks like boss fights for 94 minutes? Doesn't that sound like fun? Actually, it kind of is. Balancing elegant fighting scenes with laid-back classroom fun, this is a rather unique series that gets to dabble in a little bit of everything. Tsubasa is one of the leads in the school plays, but she just doesn't feel good about it. Clap your little hands, boys and girls, and watch as this little blossom gather confidence(!) and support(!) from her friends and her alien clone. Revealing a bit about Tsubasa and the way she views the people around her, this is an interesting bit of character development that sets up nicely for the other events in the DVD. Meanwhile, Oldeena and DD have their own hands full fighting their way through the bad guys, RPG Final Boss style. All in all, this is one of those interesting shows that no matter how you try to explain it, it comes out sounding really stupid. So just shuffle out there and give this thing a rental. Its quirky atmosphere just may appeal to you.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #2 - It's a Mad... Alternate World
ADV Films 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 01/27/2004

There are usually two fan reactions to this show. Either you keel over in merriment, slapping your knees with hearty guffaws and collapse your lungs with the very merriment that is Abenobashi. Or you just barely chuckle because as outlandish it is, you've seen this, as the box says, “crazier than crack” stuff before. As Sasshi and Arumi continue their journey to the alternate universe Abenobashi, crazy stuff continues to happen. Har har. Parodies galore, cultural references seeping through every orifice, this takes Excel Saga and pumps it full of all the wackiness that Gainax can muster, and that's saying something. Clearly, it's an acquired taste, and it's one of those series that's best suited for group viewing. It's just harder to laugh by yourself, so give this a rental for your next anime party. It'll be a crowd pleasure.

Gunparade March Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Operation One
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/4 $39.95/39 01/27/2004
Gunparade March Vol. #1
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/4 $29.95/39 01/27/2004

In 1945, a race of aliens landed on Earth, forcing a war-torn mankind to band together and act as one to drive out the invaders. Folks, I don't care how dire humanity is in need of “teamwork,” countries ripped apart by a war the size of WWII cannot just regroup, join together, hold hands, and fight together. A long historical dissertation could follow, but just trust me on this one. But assuming everyone joins together around a campfire to sing Kumbayah, you get Gunparade March as a result of it. Fifty years of devastating warfare deep, the Japanese military now depends on a bunch of little kids to save the world (*GASP!!!!* High school kids saving the world? What a novel idea!!!). It's mildly entertaining and there's certainly some potential there for more. Enjoy. Slap together Gatekeepers, any highschooler-including fare, throw in a few guns, and you've got Gunparade March. Needless to say, a lot of fans will be happy with this new series.

Robotech Remastered: Extended Edition Vol. #01
ADV Films 300 min. 1/? $29.98 01/27/2004

Do you like Robotech? Especially the first 12 episodes? Do you want them remastered? Do you want to buy something you already bought again? And piss off all your friends who spent all their money on the first release? Yeah? Okay, then do it. No? Then don't. There; shortest review ever.

Perishable Item

Crying Freeman Complete Collection
ADV Films 300 min. 1/1 $44.98 01/27/2004

Let not the first episode fool you. This show starts off with an interesting premise, and like a bridge-dwelling troll, it strikes you when you're not looking and hurls crap in your face. Yo Hinomura (as in, “Hey Yo, wassup?!”) was brainwashed by a gang and forced to be an assassin. Because they did a shoddy job, Yo wasn't completely brainwashed and still retains a tiny shred of emotions, shown by the tears he sheds after he kills someone. Give it a few episodes and you'll be the one crying. What's supposed to be an action-packed assassin vs. Scary Gangs series is actually a cry for help from a repressed porn fiend turned manga creator. From chicks who run around naked every chance possible, to wild slutty bouts of sex at every turn, to horny girls who masturbate in front of a stadium packed full of men, this show is nothing but sex and violence in the most pointless, possible way. If it's testosterone-fueled excitement you're seeking, go buy a copy of Hustler. This show sucks.

Legend of Lemnear
Central Park Media 45 min. 1/1 $19.99 01/27/2004

Legend of Lemnear has the same effect on viewers as drinking a gallon of gasoline, then hitting your head against a cinderblock while watching a Dora the Explorer marathon. It makes you stupid. In some fantasy world where the amount of metallic armor you wear is proportional to how evil and tough you are, there are three guardians: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Silver is a beautiful woman named Lemnear whose breasts keep popping out of her titanium bra. Her mission is to track down the Bad Guy who Did Bad Things to her Family, Friends, Villagers, and Land. He's sooo evil that he floats around in a sinister castle and employs evil henchman to help him carry out his underhanded tricks. Before she gets to him though, she's forced to be part of a harem!! That's the story in a nutshell. The whole. Bloody. Story. In a really small nutshell. The rest is gratuitous sex, random nudity, lots of nudity, and lots of steroids. It's not that so much of it is bad; it's just that so little of it is good. Drowning in its own stagnant mediocrity, this is an utter disappointment from the guy who was responsible for Plastic Little. I never thought sex could be so boring and pointless.

That's it for this week! Thanks for reading, and for those of you in cold parts of the country, enjoy the snow!

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