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Shelf Life
Sayonara, Sayonara

by Bamboo Dong,
More people need to listen to Japanese hip hop. Seriously, this is an oilfield of marketing potential just waiting to be tapped. Yeah, everyone loves to make fun of the bad Engrish that a lot of these artists like to dole out (“Boom clap, boom boom boom clap”), but this is a kegload of musical goodness that's yearning to be bust open by fanboys. Take the group Kick the Can Crew. Retaining a huge fan base throughout the streets of Japan and entrenching themselves in the routines of break dancers on both sides of the ocean, this group is one that would fit perfectly into the American music scene. Blending hip hop with a slight twist of house and dance, they have a unique style that sets them apart from typical mainstream rap. If you're a bit curious at all, recommendations go out to “Sayonara, Sayonara,” a mild piece with strong rhythm and a catchy synth line, and “Marusie,” a faster song with an energetic samba beat. There's no reason to listen to the same old repetitive stuff all the time. Next time you're getting sick of the same old goth rawk femmy J-Rock band, check out Kick the Can Crew. They're even cooler than M-Flo. Boom clap.

With that, welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Kaleido Star Vol. #1 - Welcome to the Kaleido Stage! + Artbox
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $39.98 05/11/2004
Kaleido Star Vol. #1 - Welcome to the Kaleido Stage!
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $29.98 05/11/2004

Nubile characters gyrating to music without the stench of BO? Count me in. Since everything seems to be getting the anime treatment nowadays, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before Cirque du Soleil went 2D. Enter Kaleido Star, yet another Gonzo production that drips with gorgeous animation and bold artistry. This 52 episode series starts off with a comfortable pace as it introduces a girl named Sora who has just arrived from Japan to chase after her dream—being a part of Kaleido Stage. Famous around the world, Kaleido Stage is similar to Cirque du Soleil. They travel around the world, putting out different themed shows to showcase their talented acrobats and experienced choreographers. When Sora arrives in California for a once in a lifetime opportunity to audition for Kaleido Stage, her hopes are dashed early when ol' Dr. Murphy steps in and completely screws up her day. By the time she makes it to the audition, it's long over. Never underestimate the power of anime plot twists, though. Right before the show that evening, circumstances swing her way when one of the performers gets injured. Before she even has time to react, she's shoved onto the stage by the group owner and finds herself as a new member of Kaleido Stage. The rest of the disc follows our hapless heroine as she tries to prove herself to her new co-workers, especially a prima donna hoe named Layla. The episodes that we're treated to run a bit slowly, but with 47 episodes to go, there's nothing to worry about. Unlike the millions of other anime series that follow the same story lines and clichés, Kaleido Star provides a unique anime series that everyone should check out.

Rental Shelf

Samurai Deeper Kyo Vol. #6 - A Shift in Time
Media Blasters 100 min. 6/6 $29.95 05/11/2004

In case you've forgotten what you picked up at the store, the covers, with their Samurai Deeper KYO logos, are there to remind you that the series is indeed about someone named Kyo. Alas, what started off as a really exciting and fresh series ended up rather blasé and jumbled, which is a shame. With the last volume, the five Muramasa have finally been assembled and are ready to wreak a world of hurt on Kyo's ass. The fights are as cool and as fluidly animated as ever, and provide one of the biggest highlights of this disc. As things gear up for the Final Ultimate Battle, it turns out that things have been made even harder on Kyo's end. Nobunaga has taken all of Kyo's friends and sucked them under his influence. Of course, what Epic Battle would be as awe-inspiring if there weren't a personal message threaded through it? Not to be outdone, this show not only has that message, but finally manages to reveal much of the history between Kyo and Kyoshiro, as well as the implications that their joining has. The grand finale of this series may not be as thrilling as the first few discs, but it still gets the job done. If you're anxiously awaiting more issues of the manga though, this is a great way to waste away some of the time.

Initial D Vol. #5 - Duct Tape Death Match
Tokyopop 150 min. 5/? $19.99 05/11/2004

Tak is back in the fifth volume of Initial D, with its rip-roarin' indie punk tracks, and its suave oh-so-indie rave music, mixed by DJ MilkmanAIMScreenname. W00t dawg. If that's too much for you, like it is for me, the Classic version is there to save the day as always with its Eurodance and hot 3D action. As the show plunges ever onwards, bumbling Itsuki manages the impossible and actually snags a date with a living human girl. Unfortunately, his day is ruined when, on his way back from his romantic soiree, his Levin is mistaken for the legendary Trueno and he is goaded into making a race down the mountain. Hoping to impress his girlfriend with his l337 driving skillz, the last thing he expecting was to spin out and land himself in the hospital. Conveniently, now that his bud's out of commission, a fire's been lit under Takumi's rump and he agrees to a Duct Tape Death Match with the Night Kids driver who perpetrated the incident. A downhill race with each driver's right hand duct taped to the steering wheel, this dangerous race is prime for more sub-standard CG, but turns out to be damned exciting nevertheless. Poorly rendered CG balanced out with an ever-forward moving storyline and characters that grow on you after 20 minutes? Yeah, I dig it. Check this shnizzle out, yo.

Birdy the Mighty DVD #2 - Final Force
Central Park Media 60 min. 2/2 $19.99 05/11/2004

Wouldn't it stink to have to share your body with a member of the opposite sex? Granted, you could peek into as many locker rooms as you wanted to, but it certainly wouldn't be convenient during that time of the month. Well, at the beginning of the first volume, we were introduced to an unfortunate young man named Tsutomu. Accidentally killed in an accident by a robot hunting woman named Birdy, the latter had to merge with his body in order to keep him alive. The two take turns carrying out their normal lives. The hitch is, one of them involves passing exams, and the other one involves dodging robot assassins and revealing the face of evil. As the last two episodes are rolled out, the latter becomes the prime focus as Birdy comes close to exposing an unscrupulous scientist—and their (literally) double identity. In the meantime, she gets the chance to explore modern Japanese life, picking up a few soft-orchestral “*sniff* I never knew that I could have so much left to learn about life!!” moments along the way. While this short three-episode shindig isn't anything to wet yourself over, it's still nice to check out one of the more interesting standalone OVAs the last decade had to offer. If you're looking for a way to kill off those lazy summer hours, give this one a chance.

Saiyuki Vol. #10 - Trouble in Paradise
ADV Films 100 min. 10/12 $29.98 05/11/2004

After nine cover shots of angsty men wearing J. Crew and smearing themselves with blood, you'd think they'd get bored. No. Volume ten greets us with a similar image, heralding in the third to last disc of the series with a lengthy flashback sequence. Luckily, this flashback sheds plenty of light on the characters and provides for an entertaining viewing session. Going 500 years back in the past, it shows everyone at a younger age, illustrating their positions in society and the many battles that were fought. With the advent of this exposition, not only do viewers get a much better overall glimpse of the characters, but it's also opening the floodgates to a whole new slew of Saiyuki fanfics set in the past. Regardless, the action sequences are fun to watch and the power struggles depicted are much more interesting than the typical walkin' ‘n’ eatin' regime normally portrayed in the series. If this show's been boring you lately, it's okay to start watching again.

Angelic Layer Vol. #6 - Inherit the Prayer
ADV Films 75 min. 6/7 $29.98 05/11/2004

Grab those Kleenex boxes, cuz it's time for the requisite beach episode. As our gallant superstars are gearing up for the finals, they decide that it's time for a much needed filler break. Apparently all the hot springs were booked, so they had to head to the beach. Of course, what beach episode would be complete without a little crushin'? Tamayo finally comes to grips with that fact that she has the mad hots for Kotaro so much of the time is spent blustering around him. Sadly, all frivolous things must eventually come to an end, and the disc manages pull itself back onto the Angelic Layer track right before it ends. Giving a closer look at the upcoming finals matchups, the stage is set for the conclusion of the series in the next volume. Certainly not one of CLAMP's stronger titles, this is a fun, brainless show anyway. If you're looking for a good way to stave off some work this week, this might just be the girly shonen for you.

Mask of Zeguy
Central Park Media 79 min. 1/1 $19.99 05/11/2004

Sometimes you have to feel sorry for those certain reject OVAs that the production teams worked so hard on, but fell just short on because the original concept was so stupid that nothing could save it. Mask of Zeguy is one such poor bastard. Somewhere over the rainbow, there's a mystical kingdom in the clouds. For some unknown reason, people want to go there. Maybe it's a really nice resort, or it has good cheese. Who knows, since it's never explained. This place is sealed by a gate of wind. In order to open those gates, you pretty much have to be God—or you could just collect the Mask of Zeguy, the Bell of Zeguy, and the Princess of Zeguy. One day, two girls stumble upon some kind of freak mishap and land in the kingdom (apparently while the front gate is blocked off, there are plenty of rear entrances). One of them is mistaken for the Princess and is carted off. It's up to the other girl to save her. But little do they expect that SHE'S REALLY THE REAL PRINCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sigh* While that last bit is kind of cool, the rest of the concept is just trite and excessively dull. With only that to work with, the show does a nice job of making it rather engaging come closing time. Had they more time, and a lot more money, it could have been much better. Considering the incredibly crappy start that this OVA had though, it's impressive that the writers tried as hard as they did to lift it out of its pile of dung and make it mildly interesting.

Perishable Items

Sohryuden: Legend of the Dragon Kings Boxset
Central Park Media 569 min. 1-6/6 $89.99 05/11/2004
Sohryuden: Legend of the Dragon Kings Vol. #6 - Blue Dragon
Central Park Media 94 min. 6/6 $19.99 05/11/2004

Anime companies often do things that confuse me. Releasing a boxset of Sohyruden is one of them. Why, oh why, would anyone want to sit through not one, but twelve episodes of a show that is so undeveloped it could be condensed into a 90 minute movie? While the series is far short of spectacular, it does manage to redeem itself a few notches in the last two episodes. Finally bothering to throw in a story, the Four Sisters step in and start flexing their political muscles. Wresting control of Hajime, their plans for world domination are ruined when he snaps and figures out how to unleash his dragon form. Before we know it, all the brothers do what they've been waiting to do for eleven episodes and go dragon on everyone's asses. More political intrigue happens, and in a fury of plot twists (something that should have happened eight episodes ago), the brothers find themselves in New York City dealing with an ancient clan rivalry that's spanned the past several centuries. It's then that viewers finally get that, “Woah... that's... that's so overpowering and awesome” feeling that all good plot twists give. Of course, leave it to the production staff to pull the same horrible pacing that it's been poisoning the whole series. A few piddly things happen, the Great Plot Twist Realm is barely prodded with a stick, and the show comes crashing to a non-finale. To borrow from Cool World:
“Was it as good for you as it was for me?”
“It's not what I expected.”

That's it for the week of May 10. Thanks for reading!

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