Shelf Life
Column Complex

by Bamboo Dong,
For several years now, many aspects of pop culture have been the target of negative criticism from societal groups and religious institutions. These include things like rap music, violent movies, Pokemon, slutty pop stars, and a popular one—video games. I'm sure this is not news to anyone, nor is it something that has not already been debated to death. Video games are stigmatized as the scapegoats for many things deemed unhealthy for children, such as violence, premarital sex, and just about anything short of going to bed at 7PM and baking cookies with Mommy every Sunday.

Perhaps we should just start focusing on the positive aspects of video games. For example, children can pick up real world experience in the event that the entire world is taken over by monsters, and the only thing that can save humanity is magical rocks, swords, and throwing playing cards at one another. Or perhaps they'll be pleased to know that their children have a lower chance of contracting skin cancer. When it all comes down to it, what's more dangerous for children? Brutally killing hookers and stabbing people to death by pressing buttons on a chunk of plastic or running around getting melanoma? See, it's all about putting things in perspective. Help fight skin cancer. Be a nerd.

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for spending precious hours hunched in front of a TV, nor is it a recommendation by any means. The sun is good for you; it builds character. This is merely a prefabricated excuse for you, or the people you know, to use when asked to stop playing games in favor of collecting UV rays outside. Note: try using negative buzzwords like “Cancer Beams” and “Melanoma Rays,” and my personal favorite, “Carcinogenic Death Lasers.”

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Shelf Worthy

Captain Herlock Vol. #3 - The Decimated Planet
Geneon 120 min. 3/4 $29.98 06/01/2004

Sometimes it's relaxing to watch a show without any of the newer gimmicks, like harems or androids. All you really need is a few solid characters and a strong story, and you've got a winning recipe. Throw in that time-tested Matsumoto flair and you've got yourself Captain Herlock, a show that's so overlooked nowadays that it's almost unfair. With one more volume to go in our grand epic, the mysterious Noo continue to get prodded with a stick until more secrets start pouring out. What results is a healthy dose of drama and a fascinating glimpse into the history of that once empowered race. Wanting to scope things out for himself, Tadashi heads out after one of the Noo. Much to his dismay, what he finds is his own self—set up to be the bait for Herlock. Normally, this would be the perfect setup for your typical action ploy where the bad guys start rigging traps for the hero, but it never happens. What you do get is a small side tangent into the mysterious practices of the Noo and the chilling secrets that are harbored on their planets. As the volume shuffles on, the series picks the perfect time to make a slow shift onto the track for the finale, revealing more of the history and motivations behind the Noo, and also the changes that are happening in all of the characters. Modeled like any good saga, Captain Herlock is an engaging show that any fan of a solid story should have on their shelves.

Megazone 23 Part 1 – Limited Edition + mousepad + Artbox
ADV Films 85 min. 1/3 $34.98 06/01/2004
Megazone 23 Part 1
ADV Films 85 min. 1/3 $24.98 06/01/2004

Imagine throwing every great sci-fi saga animated in the 80s into one room, and after an extensive eugenics program, taking all the hot offspring that have been dropped on their heads a few times. If that doesn't encapsulate the mildly daft beauty of Megazone, I don't know what ever will. Our story stars a punkster motorcycle guru named Shogo who exemplifies Japanese youth in the mid-80s—satisfied with the economy and happily rebelling against the hangovers of the pained baby boomer generation. Of course, nothing good ever lasts in sci-fi, so it's no surprise that he's in for the turd-storm of the century. Before long, he's being chased by government agents over a top-secret motorcycle his friend showed him. Not realizing that “staying alive” is a tad hard when people are shooting at you, Shogo decides to take the motorcycle and bolt. Much to his shock, the bike is loaded with secrets, including built-in access to a secret part of the city. There, he learns that the reality he's known all his life is little more than a large dollhouse set up by the government. Aided only by a computer he doesn't even know he can trust, it's up to him to uncover the truth behind the military's biggest secret. Some of the parts are a little cheesy and stretched out, but the strong 80s panache and light social criticism that hold the ideas together make it a viewing experience well worth the shelf space.

Rental Shelf

Cosplay Complex
ADV Films 75 min. 1/1 $24.95 06/01/2004

Cosplay Complex was absolutely traumatizing for me. Naturally, I'm putting it on the Rental Shelf just so all of you can share in my pain and misery. Unlike the box description suggests, the show has nothing to do with either making or funding a costume. Instead, it's a 75 minute excuse to take every fetish on the planet imaginable and squeeze it onto a few panes of celluloid. Replete with a magical fairy, Furry frenzy, maid outfits galore, raging pedophilia, and more fanservice than you can shake a jiggling tit at, this is fetish central. The story is simple: the cosplay club wants to compete in the Cosplay World Series, but first, they need a faculty sponsor, and—oh wait, that's it. The rest of the time is spent piddling with horny teens and introducing ideas that never get finished. In fact, my wager is that Cosplay Complex II in the works, because there is not a single thing in the entire OVA that gets resolved. Even with all the atrocities that litter the show though, let it not be said that you won't enjoy it. Despite all its repetitive gags, there's still plenty to laugh at. Most of the characters are a riot and everything else is so awful that you spend most of the time in shock. Plus, most of the fun is just spotting all the different anime and game series that make a cameo appearance as a costume. Even so, this is one of those “This isn't really well-written at all, but it's really hyper and krazy so it must be funny!! LOLZ!” shows that works best when viewed with other people. Sharing the pain makes it much less terrifying.

Tenchi Muyo GXP Vol. #3 - Captain Seina Yamada
FUNimation Productions 75 min. 3/? $24.98 06/01/2004

The skirts have settled and the breasts have stopped bouncing just long enough for viewers to get their first taste of a story arc. Normally, the events that transpire would be duller than a dingo dropping, but despite how pale and puny our protagonist is, his unbridled enthusiasm is contagious. The cadets get their first whack at adventure when they're all rounded up to go on a training mission. Naturally, everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong, but not before we can get a faceful of panties and a touch of exposition on the how and why of the GXP. In a surprising twist of fate (even more so than a milky boy getting all the babes on the ship), Seina eventually ends up as the decoy captain of his own ship. What's impressed me about Tenchi Muyo GXP so far is that even though you can spy fanservice every few minutes a la “Where's Waldo?”, the series still manages to retain a touch of drama and seriousness whenever it needs it. With the coming of the third volume, the story finally starts kicking up and as all the Tenchi fans out there know, it's plenty possible to get wrapped up in a show that seems like nothing but panty-flashing sex mongerers cheerful space pirates. If chicks in space make your knickers jump, give this show a brief peek. It's living up to the ol' Tenchi name just fine.

Pokémon: Jirachi Wish Maker
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 81 min. 1/1 $24.99 06/01/2004

Somewhere within the pile of movies, the wide world of Pokemon started blurring into one large heap. When all 150 Pokemon were exhausted, another hundred new species were discovered. That they were even able to keep dreaming up different little critters is an incredible feat. Sadly, at the end of the process, there was no longer any creative juice left to divvy up with the movie writers. The poor chaps had to turn back to the old movies, pull out all the juicy parts, wrap them in tin foil, and hope that something tasty would come of it if they put it in the oven. Jirachi Wish Maker is like all of the latest Pokemon movies—it's enjoyable for kids and those not ashamed to admit that they like watching kids' shows, but for us older folk, if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Ash, Brock, and two other friends have journeyed to the countryside to participate in the Millennium Festival, a circus-like event held to honour the passing of the Millennium Comet. Guess how often that happens. Somewhere in the middle of it all, there's an effeminate magician, Team Rocket, and a talking rock that hatches into a cuddly little Pokemon. Sinister events take place and evil plots are unveiled, but not before our gang learns a lesson in Compassion and how Best Friends Will Stay In Your Heart Forever. They even get together and all sing along at the end. When it comes down to it though, this movie is perfect for children. With adorable creatures, tales of friendship and loss, and a touching story all backed by simply beautiful backgrounds (and eye-poppingly awful animation), this is a movie I would have loved as a kid. Of course, there is one glaring downside to the movie, whether it was originally there or a fault of the dub, and it's that everything is told in a nauseatingly condescending fashion. If you can get past that hang up though, this is a great rainy day activity for any of the kids in your life.

Orphen II Vol. #5 - Revelations
ADV Films 100 min. 5/6 $29.95 06/01/2004

You know those Homiez toys that they have in toy dispensers outside grocery stores? One of them was a crack ho named Esperanza and it just so happens that there's a character in Orphen II with the same name. If you've seen that crack ho toy and you're immature like me, then it's very hard to watch this volume without cracking thug jokes. Unlike the previous volumes though, this one finally cans the standalones in favor of a more involved storyline in preparation for the last volume. Our first sign of the end is marked by an interesting segment about Lycoris, who discovers through a chain of events that everything in her past, including her memories, has been a colossal lie. This provides the perfect segue into the Tower of Fang's shady past, revealing along the way a dark secret about a lucrative brand of magic that used to be performed there. If there is one thing this volume does beautifully, it's the way that it shows how the different characters have changed over time. Even so, this is really the first good volume this series has had so far, so it may be a little hard for people who have been turned off by previous volumes to get back into the series. Still, everyone gets bored every now and then, and this may be the thing that makes time fly just a little faster.

Wedding Peach Vol. #03 - Spring Storm
ADV Films 125 min. 3/? $29.95 06/01/2004

This marketing angle of this series is so obscenely lame that it's fresh and entertaining. No matter how much BS is being slung at the camera, it's hard to not keep pressing “play.” In the first half of the disc, the time is ripe for the regularly scheduled, “I think my crush likes me, but will he find out my secret identity?” schoolgirl crisis. If there was much of a secret to keep, it's all thrown out the window in the end when Momoko's prepubescent heartthrob is flat-out kidnapped by the bad guys and is subjected to an ordeal of PG-rated tentacle S&M. Meanwhile, more generic girlie crises happen, but get interrupted by another attack by the evil Pluie. When it comes down to it, Wedding Peach is like every magical girl show that was ever created. You could play it side by side on mute next to a Sailor Moon dub and have the words fit perfectly, but it still manages to be fun. Whether it's the sheer ludicrousness of girls prancing around in wedding dresses or the brainless simplicity of it all, it's strangely fascinating to watch. I wouldn't recommend getting caught watching this thing, but when you're all by yourself, this is good for a couple of hours of sporadic fun.

Geisters: Fractions of the Earth Vol. #1
Anime Crash 120 min. 1/6 $29.99 06/01/2004

Sometime in the future, there's a world-eating rock heaving itself towards Earth. Instead of calling Bruce Willis and company, half of humanity has bailed onto a meteorite, and the other half has decided to chill out on Earth just to see what will happen. An arbitrary three centuries later, the space bounded folks have decided to venture back to Earth to see what's up. Unfortunately, now the entire place is inhabited by huge metal-eating monsters. Never mind the human-hating freaks though, because humanity has more important things to do, like setting up elaborate caste systems to help decide if pompous blowhards get to live in a dilapidated shack, or a shinier, bigger dilapidated shack. Suddenly, an all-out turf war breaks out between the Spacies, the Earthies, and the Metal-Eating Freakies. BUT WAIT, the Freakies are evolving into really super-duper tough, man-hating, city-destroying, super-psychotic BIGGER FREAKIES!!! Eventually, near the end of the series, humanity will probably band together and drive back the monsters in a tour de force of friendship, Starship Troopers style. For now, humanity would rather fight each other and have the Earthies send controversial super soldiers named Geisters after the Freakies to mow them down. There are several places on this disc where simple logic fails the characters, but human stupidity aside, this show is fascinating on several levels. If you watched this series just for the action and sci-fi, you'd want to beat your skull in with a bat. Where the real fun is at is watching the power struggles of all the population groups. From internal struggles to international brouhahas, the politics that these people get themselves entangled in are intriguing to watch. Whether it was an intentional desire on behalf of the director or not, a lot of the governing systems resemble some of those seen throughout history and really give viewers the chance to examine the workings of each society from an outside perspective. Hokey? Yes. Worth watching if you enjoy human power bickering? Certainly. Give it a shot and see what you think.

And that's that. Thanks for reading!

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