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Shelf Life
Bitter like marmalade

by Bamboo Dong,
The harsh winter winds are gone, the snow's been replaced by rain, the pigeons are starting to coo again... you know what that means, right? That's right; con season's almost here. A place of congregation where thousands of anime fans can crowd together into small rooms and draw negative glares from hotel staff, conventions are a staple of fandom that simply cannot be ignored. Now, seeing as how this column is entitled Shelf Life, I feel that it is my duty to present a quick guide to what I believe is the most organic and shelf worthy of all items—dignity. No one can be liked by everyone, but it's easy enough to not be hated by everyone as well. The best thing is, it only takes five quick guidelines.
  1. Reign those touchy-feely emotions in, folks. Sure, that cute Ichigo cosplayer or that glompalicious Sesshoumaru may be the most adorable thing you've ever laid eyes on, but just because you want to touch them and hug them does not mean that they want the same.
  2. Soap. We all know that fanboys and fangirls aren't exactly bastions of personal hygiene, but there's a difference between casual negligence and utter disregard. Smelling like an unkempt farmboy may be the key to keeping you and your pals awake for those late night Naruto marathons, but that's what Red Bull and Aftershock's for.
  3. No heckling. Yes, there're some cosplay entries that exist only to be made fun of, but they worked hard on those outfits. If you've got something mean to say, keep it to yourself.
  4. Bootlegs are teh suck. If you're going to get something autographed by one of the visiting guests, please don't hand them a bootlegged CD or VCD. That's not cool at all.
  5. Don't be an ass. That's just common sense. Be nice to the world and they'll be nice back.
Con season is a time of fan bonding and good times. Let's all enjoy it together, okay? Hope to meet some of you guys this year!

On that note, welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Saikano Vol. #1 - Girlfriend
Viz, LLC. 100 min. 1/4 $24.98 04/27/2004

If there was one word that could be used to describe this show, it would be “ethereal.” Everything about it, from its hazy, pastel artwork, to its heart wrenching story, to the growing relationship between the two main characters, can only be explained with such a word. With a title that is short for Saishū Heiki Kanojo, or My Girlfriend the Ultimate Weapon, SaiKano could easily be mistaken for a war story. Despite its war torn settings and themes though, the turmoil that viewers find themselves looking at serves as merely a backdrop for the story. The main focus of the story is on Chise and Shuuji, two high school students struggling to live as a normal boyfriend and girlfriend, all while dealing with the destruction and loss around them. Not pausing even for a moment, the first episode launches straight into the thick of things. Chise is confronted by the military, who convince her to alter her body so she can be their ultimate weapon. She agrees, and it is then that the struggling line of existence as a human and weapon slowly becomes the central conflict of the story. This is one show that no one can pass up. If there is one series out there that everyone needs to give a chance, it is this one. Even with the surreality of the story, the emotions are so real and tender that even the most jaded will be moved by SaiKano.

Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #4 - Fugitive
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 04/27/2004

Can I possibly say enough good things about this show? After a thrilling first half filled with mainly standalone stories, the characters plunge into deeper territory and spiral down to what seems to be 'The Main Story Arc'. Everything from here on out is fast-paced and packed with intrigue. After the incidents in the last volume, Robin and crew have been on alert in the office. Two of their members are still missing, but already Solomon's forces are mobilizing to attack the STN-J. Robin's life is on the line now, but luckily Amon shows up to whisk her out of harm's way. Giving her directions to a friend's place to hide out at, the setting has only just been set for more excitement. With new places to see, new characters to meet, new chasms forming between the hunters, and new information to be extracted about the fate of the Witches, this is definitely a DVD that any fan of Witch Hunter Robin absolutely must add to their collection. The stakes are high in the episodes to come, and if you're not there to watch it, you'll regret it.

Rental Shelf

Marmalade Boy Collection 1
TOKYOPOP 475 min. 1/4 $99.99 04/27/2004

If a self-proclaimed shoujo fan has never heard of this show, then they're not a real shoujo fan. The quintessential girly anime soap of our time, with a bigger gimmicky toy market than even Hana Yori Dango, Marmalade Boy is a show so melodramatic and annoying that it grows on you stronger than a heroine addiction. It's a shame Tokyopop isn't releasing this show on individual discs, as few casual anime viewers are inclined to drop a Benjamin on 19 episodes they've never seen before. For fans bent on collecting the series though, they're committing themselves to a hefty $400 price tag. Still, despite the dent that it would make in anyone's bank ledger, this is quite the nostalgic experience for anyone who remembered watching third generation fansubs of this show and thinking, “boy, who would ever be willing to release Marmalade Boy?” The first episode introduces us to a whiny high school girl named Koishikawa Miki. Much to her agony, her parents are getting a divorce... and swapping mates with another family! Not only does the other couple have a teenaged son Miki's age (HINT, HINT: Romantic angle), but to make this transition easier for both kids, the parents have decided to buy a new house and move in together (HINT, HINT: Chances to get the mack on). Romantic triangles, random love interests, high school drama, and grotesquely large eyes ensue. Despite appearances, this show can be enjoyed by guys just as much as girls. The first four episodes may be a little cheesy and hokey, but once that barrier is crossed, viewers of both genders and ages will start feeling a little more than intrigued by the story. Still, $100 is a bit much for a show you've never seen before, so try and find a friend that already has this series before you make this financial leap.

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #1 – Entrance! w/ Artbox & pins
ADV Films 125 min. 1 $39.98 04/27/2004
Azumanga Daioh Vol. #1 – Entrance!
ADV Films 125 min. 1 $29.98 04/27/2004

For many people, Azumanga Daioh is largely hit or miss. Either you think the show's hysterical and cute beyond comparison, or it misses your funny bone by a mile. Packed with Japanese cultural in-jokes, a colorful cast of characters, and plenty of gags, it recreates high school through the lives of several high school girls. The audience jumps in right as two new girls transfer into the class—a cheerfully adorable 10-year old prodigy named Chiyo, and a rather estranged girl from Osaka named Ayumu. As the show's short episodes roll forward, viewers are slowly introduced to the quirky girls who make up the cast. From Sakaki, a quiet girl with a penchant for cats, to the boisterous Tomo, the personalities dotting the show are diverse and entertaining to follow. Depending on your taste of humour though, the repetitive gags that litter the episodes may get very dull after awhile, as they hardly change throughout the disc. For all those wondering where all the males in the series are, they don't have too long to wait. Towards the end of the first volume, viewers get introduced to the first prominent male of the series... a perverted male teacher who would like nothing better than to stare at prepubescent girls all his life. As predictable as he is, I find him absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious. Really, this is the kind of show that, if you watch it long enough, you'll find something that will make you laugh. Truth be told though, it's not for everyone, so if you haven't seen this before, definitely give it a rental before you make any decisions about it.

Kaze No Yojimbo Vol. #1 - A New Face in Town
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 1/? $29.95 04/27/2004

Reaching back into the days of classic samurai movies, Kaze no Yojimbo is a classy adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's famed Yojimbo. A laid-back series in the style of old school mysteries, it skillfully moulds suspense to keep viewers on the edge of their couches. Flashing fifteen years into a sepia-stained past, the audience is introduced to the mystery that haunts the town. A train had passed through the quiet place, but somehow, a car was stolen. No one knows what was inside, and all the people associated with the incident have clammed up. Enter our hero, pulled straight out from any samurai-styled movie of yesteryear. His job is to flush out the secrets of the town, but he gets the certain sense that strangers aren't too welcome in town. Between the hostilities that he faces and the rabbit hole that keeps getting deeper, this is a nice show to kick back with on a lazy night. If you haven't seen any samurai flicks before, you may find the oddly paced storytelling and jumping around to be a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get past that hang-up, you'll start to have more fun. It's a far cry from a masterpiece, or even a must see, but mystery aficionados should definitely give it a quick peek.

Arjuna Complete Collection
Bandai Entertainment 400 min. 1/1 $49.98 04/27/2004

Do your friends think you're not “indie” enough? Do you want to be a granola-eatin', sandal-wearin' tree-huggin' hippie, but don't know where to start? Thankfully you've got Earth Girl Arjuna, the number one crash course in environmental and pro-life propaganda. Juna is a normal high school girl until one day, she realizes that it's her destiny to save the world from evil things like pollution, pesticides, and land fills! With an enigmatic circle of characters backing her up, like the freakishly ghostlike Chris, his aggravating wannabe girlfriend, and Juna's environmentally unsound, fast-food eating boyfriend, our whiny heroine is on a mission to protect the earth with her archery skills and Greenpeace powers. Despite its seemingly lackluster story, one huge thing in its favor is the visuals. With stunning artwork and magnificently fluid animation, Arjuna is one of the most appealing anime series ever made. If that's enough to sell you on a series, or if you think environmentalism is a topic that's right up your tree-lined alley, this might be the perfect show for you. For all you others though, be forewarned that Arjuna is as ludicrously preachy as it is pretty. Not only does Kawamori tell you his views and morales, but he beats you about the head mercilessly with a trowel, screaming, “I'm right, you're wrong! Go to hell!” until you're a limp pile of compost.

Infinite Ryvius Vol. #4 - Change of Command
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 04/27/2004

Infinite Ryvius has the makings of a good show, but for some reason, I just can't bring myself to care about it. Whether it's the lack of pizzazz, lack of coherence, or abundance of trivial crew spats that makes the story travel in loops, this show just falls short of its full potential. With only two more volumes to go, yet another dominant crew member decides he wants to lord it over everyone else. Pissing contests follow, and before we know it, Airs Blue is stomping around the ship wanting everyone to kiss his ass. It's not long before he gets replaced by another top banana, and the chaos continues. Despite the constant ups and downs of petty crew struggles, this series still has its moments. Watching the characters grow and adapt to each other over time still remains the focal point of the episodes, so character development nuts (like myself) will find plenty to keep themselves busy. Still, with only two volumes left, viewers may find themselves getting a little antsy as to whether or not all the unanswered questions are going to be handled properly. If you haven't seen this series yet, give it a whack.

Perishable Items

Happy Lesson Vol. #3 - Mama-Lama-Ding-Dong
ADV Films 100 min. 3/3 $29.98 04/27/2004

Some shows get better and better as you watch them, until they slowly become a new favorite. Other shows keep sucking and sucking until they turn into a black hole of boobs and nasty thoughts. Happy Lesson really gets even more formulaic and trite in this final volume, after the requisite Hot Springs Episode™, the “Gasp! I've found your secret! You really live with an assload of chicks!” episode, and the time-honored “I must confess my love and breasts to you at the festival!” episode. There's still a good number of funny scenes, but even a head of cabbage could smell the ending a few kilometers away. As far as harem shows go, this is the most clichéd one I've seen in ages. There're so many other better shows out there for people to get their jollies off of. Go grab one of those instead.

And that's that for this week. See you next time as we watch a Korean kid ride on a skateboard that looks like a Twinkie... If you don't know what I'm talking about, you'll find out next week. 'ta

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