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Shelf Life
Column Power!

by Bamboo Dong,
With Anime Expo and Otakon coming up, and all those other anime conventions scattered so profusely in these summer months, it is now harder than ever to get cheap accessories on eBay. It seems like all the cosplayers out there are scrambling online to buy last minute shoes, wigs, and miscellaneous baubles. If someone ever made a US-based cosplay store that stocked nothing but wigs, all kinds of random used shoes, and every kind of accessory imaginable, they'd make thousands of cosplayers happy come these last hectic few weeks. There are incredible cosplay stores in Japan, but it'd be nice if one of the anime retail chains in the States opened up a cosplay branch. Ah, the things one can dream for...

Until then, I'm gonna go look for a wig. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Grrl Power!
ADV Films 25 min./45 min. of extras 1/1 $14.98 06/08/2004

Never has there been a “translated” title more grossly inappropriate for a show than “Grrl Power” Based on the manga, Makasete Iruka! (“Leave it up to Iruka”), this show is another Akitarō Daichi work that is just cute and touching enough to be a Must-See. Umi, Sora, and Ao are a hardworking trio of elementary students who run their own odd jobs service. They do their best to help out those in need, from doing homework for high schoolers to negotiating labor contracts for fish filleting companies. With all of this hard work though, it's no wonder that they haven't gone to school in ages. That's why their hardest job yet is to try and convince a nerdy little slacker that going to school is one of the most important things a child could do. Throughout the course of this 25 minute, viewers get the chance to peer into the lives of these incredible girls as they slave away cheerfully to fulfill their idealistic goals. The concept of this show may seem cheesy at first, and the flamboyant character designs don't help in diminishing that first impression any, but this is an OVA that no one should miss. The fact that it's the first anime to ever seriously encorporate sign language is fascinating as well. Come closing credits, the only regret I had was that there weren't any more episodes.

Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat Vol. #1 – Nyo!
ADV Films 85 min. 1/? $29.99 06/08/2004

If the cover is any indication, Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat is quite possibly the cutest thing to ever come out of Broccoli. Starring the ever energetic Dejiko and the soft spoken Puchiko, the story takes place on the planet Di Gi Charat. Dejiko is a princess who has decided to venture into town and use her kindness to help those around her. Joined by two equally endearing girls named Mike and Rinna, each episode is a set of random standalone segments that seem to do nothing but test how many squeals of “Sooo cute!!!!” it can illicit out of the audience. Of course, even a world so sugary needs an antagonist, and this role is filled by Deji Devil and the revamped Piyoko, who make it their mission to take advantage of the girls' naïveté. While the series does follow a general storyline, it's really not the focus of the show at all. Rather, the whole point of Panyo Panyo is pretty much to provide cute, energetic, laughable entertainment, all while selling an assload of character merchandise on the side. Even though there's enough sugar to kill a tree (e.g. “My cakes rise because I use baking powder of the heart! People's smiles make the cakes perfect!”), this is great for fans of adorable, hyperactive fun.

Kiddy Grade Vol. #4 - The Present Future
FUNimation Productions 75 min. 4/8 $24.98 06/08/2004

Those eyes... are SO creepy. Luckily, the episodes more than make up for them. After three volumes of varying levels of excitement and mediocrity, Kiddy Grade finally kicks it into high gear as the story starts pouring out at long last. After Éclair lands in the hospital after a particularly harrowing case, she pays a visit to her past. As all her memories start flooding her consciousness, the audience finally learns of all the events that have led up to the present. Shocked at the memories, Éclair spends a vast part of the episodes slowly coping with what she's learned about herself. Alas, there's no time to sit back and bask in Memory Lane. When a series of surprising events unroll, Éclair and Lumiere find themselves in a position they never would have thought possible. Before they know it, they're on the run from the very organization that they once belonged to. If you haven't been watching Kiddy Grade so far because you've found it too dull or too average, now's a good time to give it another chance. You might even be inspired to check out the past volumes again.

Last Exile Vol. #4 - Breakthrough
Geneon 100 min. 4/7 $29.98 06/08/2004

With every passing scene, Last Exile gets more and more intriguing, until you realize that you've been sucked completely into this daring new world. After the crescendo of events in the last volume, things cool down a bit by taking a look at Tatiana's past. It's a bit of a drag to not be able to continue the excitement from last time, but the things that are learned really help set up the rest of the episodes. This works to the viewer's advantage especially when Claus and Tatiana's relationship is expanded a little further. Like with all of the past episodes though, Last Exile continues its bad habit of abruptly switching to another scene right when viewers become engrossed in a certain scenario. Thus, the scene is flopped to another part of the geography where a group of people are being pushed from their homelands. As the scenes keep flopping around, the rich layer of under story is strengthened, both for the internal characters, and also for the general arc. A lot of things are happening all at once, but the end results are shaping to be such an intricate mosaic that it's hard to not be captivated by all of this. Mark this down on the shopping list.

Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #5 - Determination
Bandai 100 min. 5/6 $29.98 06/08/2004

With the end now in sight, the shadows of mystery are getting longer. Robin is still on the run, but with the help of Nagira, more information is revealed along the way. As the events unfold, Robin's character really steps into the limelight and the series almost entirely shifts its focus onto her. At the same time, the other people around her have shifted their sights onto her as well, as a new witch hunt is started— with her as the target. Now that the series is almost over, a lot of the questions are beginning to be answered. With everything coming into the open now, the series is more exciting than ever before (if that's even possible). From the dark, glamourous atmosphere, to the slick action, this is a show that everyone must absolutely see. If you haven't started watching this show yet, stop reading this right now and go buy it.

Rental Shelf

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #2 - Festivals!
ADV Films 100 min. 2/? $29.99 06/08/2004

The onslaught of in-jokes continues as AzuDai totters along its merry way. In volume two, the manga is brought to life as the girls experience the joys of a school culture fest. For all the Chiyo fans out there, if you've ever wanted to know how she's able to fly, Osaka's New Year dreams are there to guide you along the way (in a rather... creepy fashion). And, if you're like me and Sakaki is your favorite Azumanga Daioh gal, there's plenty of material here to keep you occupied. Unlike your more typical comedies though, this series has a decidedly unique sense of timing and pacing. When a 4-panel gag is transferred onto celluloid, you're left with several cases of repeated scenes. An example is when Osaka watches Chiyo fly through the air. The same shot is looped for two minutes, when viewers get the novelty of the joke after the fifth second. So really, how funny you find the show depends largely on how much patience you have or how short your attention span is. Sure, the show is cute and funny, but unless you have the tolerance to be able to sit there and watch the same slow-paced gags on repeat, this might be something that you'll want to rent first.

Happy Lesson OVA - Mama Mia!
ADV Films 75 min. 1/1 $29.98 06/08/2004

It's Love Hina again and again, schoolteacher style! If that sounds appealing to you, then Happy Lesson will make you very... well, happy. If not, grab your gloves and get ready to strangle some terrifyingly annoying characters because that's one thing that this OVA absolutely excels in. Occuring at random places throughout the TV series timeline, the OVA encapsulates three episodes: a different spin on the first episode, a requisite BEACH BABES! episode, and the equally requisite Christmas celebration. Chitose is an orphan who inherited an enormous house from his parents. He's certainly not missing a mother figure in his life though, because now he has five mothers who all seem to have no other goals in life other than becoming the ultimate hausfraus. To make it worse, they're all teachers at his school and their personalities are a saturated mix of every bad Love Hina girl trait ever envisioned. As happy as Chitose should be about living with a houseful of buxom women, he teeters on the edge of insanity from their obnoxious, selfish, rude, and ridiculously aggravating antics. Somewhere in the mix of things is a cute orphan named Minazuki, a pop star, and a tender story of friendship and having loving people in your life. Sadly, this aspect of the show only surfaces for a few minutes at a time, as the content mix in the show is roughly 15% fanservice, 82% pure torture and annoyance through the use of blindingly infuriating females, and 3% touching emotion. At the same time, these episodes manage to inject just enough emotion into the story every time one's tolerance level is reached that you can't help but keep watching, just to see what will happen. Unless you're a fan of the whole Sexpot Brothel vs. milquetoast genre, this might be something that you should keep on your Rental list.

Angel Tales Vol. #1 Limited Edition + Artbox + Plushies - Sweet Transmigration
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $39.98 06/08/2004
Angel Tales Vol. #1 - Sweet Transmigration
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $29.98 06/08/2004

There's a fine line of demarcation between the realms of Weird and Creepy. The concept for Angel Tales lies squarely on top, with a paw in one and a wing in the other. Like any frail anime male, Goro Matsumi is a hapless chap who has the world's worst luck. When he chances upon a fortune teller in the streets, she tells him that his luck will vastly improve. Naturally, he thinks she's full of feces, but changes his mind when three beautiful girls appear in his apartment. Before he knows it, more and more girls join the mix, all clad in schoolgirl garb and vying desperately for his love and affection. Calling this a harem show is an understatement; Angel Tales is a breast menagerie. With this “menagerie” is also where the creep factor steps in. Turns out, every girl is the reincarnated form of a pet that Goro once had that died from neglect. Now, if there were a bunch of girls in my apartment who said that I was the cause of their deaths, I would buy a ticket to France and never come back. For some bizarre reason though, none of them are bitter about their untimely ends and are actually back on earth so they can thank Goro for his kindness by staying faithfully at his side. His only job is to help them overcome the phobias that they developed while dying. This last aspect of the story makes the show kind of cute, and the girls are certainly a fun bunch, but there are far too many characters. With twelve un-dead girls running around, there's no time for character development and this detracts sorely from the show. Even so, this is the harem show to end all harem shows, so if curiosity is getting the better of you, this might be fun to check out over the weekend.

Domain of Murder
Central Park Media 57 min. 1/1 $19.99 06/08/2004

After rotting for awhile in bargain bins around the country, Domain of Murder was saved by the people at CPM who lovingly nurtured it and stuck it on a shiny disc. Now it's back to terrorize the world with its non-existent-budget animation, its heinous logical flaws, and its unexplainably fascinating charm. The events of this murder mystery begin when a woman spies a wanted sign for a murderer. She discovers with shock that the man on the poster is the husband that left her three years ago. Desperate to talk to him before the authorities catch him, she hires a private investigator to help her find the wanted man. In a tizzy of choppy, non-sequential animation, plot holes that could fit a bull elephant, and hokey plot twists, the past is slowly revealed. The reason why the woman's husband left her and the tragedy that sparked it all come into play, and eventually end in a clap of lameness well deserving of a broken trophy for the world's worst ending. Honestly, there are so many mistakes riddling the movie that it's hard to pinpoint what makes it so interesting. Maybe it's because of the semi-realistic mood and the feeling that you're watching an ABC original movie. Whatever it is, it's the atmosphere that makes it worth watching. It's not enough to balance out the truckloads of Low Budget that are stamped across every frame, but it's just enough to save it from the trash heap. Give it a rental and see what you think.

Infinite Ryvius Vol. #5 - Retribution
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 5/6 $29.98 06/08/2004

Remember those times that people would scream at you to be quiet? Or the times that people would slap or punch others to show them that violence wasn't appreciated? The fifth installment of Infinite Ryvius smacks of that kind of hypocrisy, and it's getting harder to swallow because of it. After the tragedies that have befallen the crew, changes are being made in the ship's chain of command yet AGAIN for the twentieth time. Kids, just pick roles out of a bloody hat and stay with them. Unsurprisingly, this results in more localized chaos, like a regime of martial law and kids screaming at each other to shut up and figure things out. Really, nothing has changed since the second volume. The crew members are still bickering with each other, the command chain still keeps getting changed every four minutes, and the same problems that were introduced in the first volume have yet to be solved. It's almost frustrating to keep watching a series, knowing that you could have skipped four discs and (almost) not missed a single beat. At least there is one thing to be cheery about, and it's that the last disc is rapidly approaching. It's still a little unclear what's going to happen to everyone in the end, but as the series gears towards its landing strip, things move into place to finish out the story. Unless you've been religiously following this show since the first volume, this probably isn't worth the $29.98 MSRP. Now only if those bratty kids would shut the hell up for five minutes.

Kaze no Yojimbo Vol. #2 - Small Town Secrets
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 2/6 $29.98 06/08/2004

In my mind, Kaze no Yojimbo feels like a sepia spaghetti Western, yet at the same time, its atmosphere is supposed to be inspired from old samurai flicks. No surprise, I guess, since all the old samurai films were pretty much Westerns with swords, anyway. Taking the same low key ambience that was prevalent in the first volume, the second disc continues this meander through secrecy. While George is busy unraveling the secret to the infamous 15-year mystery, he makes the acquaintance of several interesting characters, each with their own piece to contribute to the overall puzzle. From batty ladies with oh-so-secretive pasts to nice old men with that Creepy Twinkle in Their Eyes, the series is like a compilation of mysteries shoved into an overarching one. Granted, the pacing is a little slow, but everything feels so relaxed (even with gripping murder cases at hand) that it's one of those shows you can pop in on a lazy afternoon with a bowlful of popcorn (or for you odd-ball Japanophiles out there, an armful of Pocky). Inversely, it may just bore you to tears. If you're one for shoot-'em-up actions, this might not get your heart pumping, but for a good old Hercule Poirot-styled mystery, this is great for a passing rental.

And that's that! Thanks for reading!

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