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Shelf Life
Beyond the grave and into the anime ocean

by Bamboo Dong,
Wouldn't it be awful if there was an organization out there that could dictate every aspect of your home's exterior, like the color of your house or the types of shrubs you planted in your yard? Wouldn't it be unfair for an organization to force you to change the color of flowers you planted, simply because it doesn't suit their personal tastes? Wouldn't it be absolutely unbearable giving money to an organization every month only to have them turn around and tell you exactly how to manage your own real estate property, and force you to pay dues for a recreational facility that you know you won't use? Isn't it silly to think that in this day in age, in a country that champions freedom, there are nosy neighbors spying on you every day, threatening to sue you if you don't plant at least one evergreen on your front lawn? Isn't it bloody absurd that for almost every new housing contract handed out, homeowners are forced to join this bloodsucking organization in order to buy the house? It's a shame that in an association made up of home owners, the members have their private property commanded over by a handful of anal, prying, illogical board members. What started out as a good idea has become nothing more than a stage for power hungry middle-class men and women to force their unasked-for opinions on people where it was never, and will never, be needed. It's true that these extreme cases are only rotten apples in a silo of healthy ones, but those rotten apples have enough pungency to stink up a mountain range.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Saikano Vol. #2
Viz, LLC. 100 min. 2/4 $24.95 07/06/2004

Only halfway through the series, and it's already depressing. But damn, if this show doesn't nab the frailties and insecurities of young love, I don't know what ever will. As the war wages onwards, Chise is finding out what it really means to be the Ultimate Weapon. Unable to control the extent of her powers yet, she keeps annihilating cities around the countryside, earning the nickname Angel of Death. It's when she accidentally blows up part of her school that the strain between her and Shuuji takes center stage and pushes the war out of the way. Coupling his fear of her, and the loneliness that Chise experiences as she struggles to identify herself as a human, the pain in their relationship finally reaches a breaking point. Laden with sadness, the tortured emotions between the two make them a couple that are easy to root for. Everything in this series is just so well done, especially with the tense drama between the two students as they fight to stay in love when their entire world is being torn apart. With only two more volumes to go, this is a series that everyone needs to give a chance. Beautiful and sad, this is a must-see.

Nadia, Secret of Blue Water Collection 2 + 2 CDs
ADV Films 565 min. 2/2 $49.98 07/06/2004

If $50 could net you 19 episodes, a movie, and two soundtracks every time, the world would be filled with rainbows and bichon frises. Rounding up the end of this popular series, Nadia and her pals finally uncover the secret of her past and wrestle control of Atlantis' fate once more. It's not a wildly imaginative show, but the characters are a joy to watch and the different ways that they can think up to save their comrades using the same ploys is always fun. Half the enjoyment is just watching Nadia grow as she learns to accept the different aspects of her life. From a circus performer to someone with the ability to save the world, she accepts her new role in a wholly realistic manner, and it makes it so much more worth watching. This is a series that has always deserved a boxset release, and with the way that ADV's packaged everything, it's an opportunity you just can't pass up. If you've liked this show but haven't wanted to shell out the money for it, now's your perfect chance to own one of the best series to ever come out of Gainax.

Excel Saga IM-perfect Collection
ADV Films 650 min. 1-6/6 $89.98 07/06/2004

If you really liked Excel Saga, there's a good chance that you already have the discs sitting on your shelf. Well, if you're one of those people that have been waiting for a boxset, here it is. One of the most popular parody shows to come out in recent history, Koshi Rikudo's work is packed full of jabs at everything from Leiji Matsumoto to Pokemon. Excel is a bouncy girl who works for ACROSS, a massive organization (two people) that is dedicated to helping Illapalazzo take over the world and defend Earth from all sorts of problems. Along with her dog Menchi and the sickly Hyatt, she storms through these six volumes and proves that a show doesn't have to be deep to be entertaining. Of course, as funny as it is, the show does get a little old after awhile. That's why for comedies like these, it's always best to watch it with a group of friends. If anything else, you need this on your shelf as a fool-proof anime party marathon treat.

Rental Shelf

Gungrave Vol. #1 + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $39.98 07/06/2004
Gungrave Vol. #1
Geneon 100 min. 1 $29.98 07/06/2004

Flying bullets, pumping testosterone, and a semi-sweet tale of friendship gone wrong... Gungrave is all that and more if you can just get past the first episode. Based on the videogame of the same name, the first episode unloads the entire premise of the story (which is also inconveniently located on the back of the box, telling you how deep the whole thing is) right off the bat. The series starts in medias res with a young woman named Mika on the run from the mafia. Whilst running, she stumbles into a scientist who is trying to revive a guy, aptly named "Beyond the Grave." The process works and now some bad-ass is tearing up the streets with his guns, hunting down mafia syndicate members left and right. He and Mika click and they start comparing their pasts. The story flashes back to the several years prior, where most of the events in the series transpire. Turns out, Grave wasn't always an Alucard-wannabe. He used to be a man named Brandon who, along with his best buddy Harry, had sweet best friend moments like strolling through the park, looking at the stars, and killing people. But like the first episode implies, they end up trying to kill each other. While it's intriguing to see how the two friends deteriorated into loathing each other, it doesn't provide much of a story. The basic premise of the show can be summed up in three words: vengeance with guns. Knowing that, it's hard to fully enjoy the lackluster series. Really, the only thing it has going for it is guns, and lots of them. But... if that's what gets your blood pumping, this is the rental for you.

Boys Over Flowers Vol. #06
Viz, LLC. 100 min. 6/? $24.98 07/06/2004

What? Your girl's got her eyes on another man and now you're wreaking havoc through the entire school? Please girlfriend, quit being such a drama queen. Jealousy and insecurities will always have a place in high school romances, but this volume of Boys Over Flowers shows what happens when rich boys start feeling the hurt. As Tsukushi spends more and more time with Rui, Tsukasa becomes more jealous by the second. It finally reaches the point where he lashes out at the two of them and dissolves the F4. Using his rich boy influences, he threatens to get them expelled from school and no matter what Tsukushi says, he can't be calmed. It's a little overdramatic, but it really lets you see a deeper side of him—the side that's scared, mistrusting, and afraid of losing something that he won't be able to buy back. Throughout the series, it's been interesting to see how class conflicts play into the story, and with discs like this that show the vulnerabilities of the upper class (what with your basic “Spoiled Boy <3 Poor Chick and discovers that love is better than money” scenario), it makes the teen angst so much more interesting to watch. High school melodrama at its best (and worst), Boys Over Flowers never fails to remind viewers that not all shoujo has hearts and puppies.

Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. #1 + Artbox + Figure
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $39.98 07/06/2004
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. #1
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 07/06/2004

What made the television series so appealing was that even though it was saturated with fanservice and harem-type situations, it also had one of the most captivating and touching romances recently made. Every time Kaoru and Aoi were alone on the screen, you knew that you were in for a rare emotional treat. If only they would make an OVA that brought their sweet relationship to the forefront, instead of hiding it in the background... Flash forward two years to when Ai Yori Aoshi ~ Enishi takes place. Sadly, the wish for a stronger romance hasn't been answered yet, but the whole crew's back for some giddy excitement. It's still the same ol', same ol', but for fans of the TV series, this should suit them just fine. Even now that Kaoru's in grad school, the perfectly matched duo still hasn't been able to tell everyone that they're an item. So instead of resolving that, they bring in Chika, a flirty girl briefly featured in the first series. From there on out, it's business as usual. The characters play tennis, they freak out over haunted houses, and they shove their cleavage in front of the camera. It's nice to see the cast back again, but it's disappointing that Kaoru and Aoi's love life has to sit stewing on the back burner yet again. With such a strong tie between the two, it's a waste to toss it aside in favor of generic harem antics. The moments when the two are together are just as priceless as ever, but if that's all that's keeping you interested in the show, don't hold your breath. We couldn't be that lucky.

Super Milk-Chan Show Vol. #1
ADV Films 135 min. 1/4 $29.98 07/06/2004

... ...
... ... ... .. Hmm... .. no. To say that I fully understand this show would be equivalent to me proclaiming that I had tea and pastries with God. It didn't happen, and it won't happen. ADV has done something rather unconventional with this release, and is pretty much giving fans two different shows in one. On one disc are the original Japanese episodes, complete with a faithful dub track. Super Milk-chan is a potty-mouthed superhero who, with the help of her robot and robo-dog sidekicks, takes day-saving commissions from The President. Impressively, he's able to place enough trust in her to thwart missiles, even though she can't ever remember to pay her monthly rent. Coming off a bit like the Powerpuff Girls except with the word “Goddamn” every two lines, the show looks really cute, but it's not quite as easy to comprehend. With more cultural jokes than even Azumanga Daioh, it's difficult to see the humour behind everything unless you're very, very familiar with Japanese pop culture and society. Since the storyline's a bit thin, the real appeal to the show is the jokes, but if you're in the dark about them, everything will soar cleanly over your head and bore you to tears. Then there's the 100% Whole Super Milk-chan show, ADV's spin on the episodes. Buttressed with live-action footage from around their Houston studio, the series has been given the Stephen Foster treatment (i.e. the script no longer resembles the original story) and has been reinforced with Americanized jokes. From cracks about the Olsen twins to transvestites, this “new” show is pre-packaged for a different target audience, and it's funnier because of it. It's all up to you to decide which version of the show you want to watch. Regardless of what you choose, this is worth watching at least once, even just to be able tell your friends, “hey, so I saw this really f—ed up show” whenever there's booze on the table.

Fighting Spirit Vol. #1
Geneon 115 min. 1/? $29.98 07/06/2004

Move over Princess Nine. There's a new sports anime on the market and it's set to kick your ass into submission. Fighting Spirit is the story of a young man named Ippo Makunouchi, an average Joe who's the constant target of two schoolyard bullies. One day while he's getting pounded to a pulp, a passerby steps in and hands the bullies a stern ass-whooping. As luck would have it, the newcomer is Mamoru Takamura, one of the hottest new stars in boxing. He decides to lend Ippo a helping hand by showing him a few moves and introducing him to the world of pro boxing. Before long, his young protégé is fascinated by the sport, filling his mind with boxing magazines and videotapes, and deciding that he wants to be a boxer. From then on out, the wheels of the sports genre machine start churning and Ippo must go through several tasks to prove himself worthy of the sport, first to the skeptical Takamura, then to the local boxing team. Through it all, the series main focal point remains Ippo, an amazingly fun character to watch as he bares his determination again and again as a reminder of his fighting spirit. The first few episodes are a little slow, but it really shows some potential near the end. It'll be interesting to see how the story, and the character, grows over the course of the next seventy episodes. In the meantime, give this a quick rental. I have a feeling it's going to be good.

Cyber City Oedo 808: The Vampire
Central Park Media 49 min. 3/3 $19.99 07/06/2004

What used to be a man on the cover is now a woman sporting a chic pink uniform and smashing purple tights, thanks to a cute discoloration makeover. Hot. Heralding in the last leg of the Cyber City trilogy, The Vampire zeroes in on the aforementioned man and lets him take the spotlight for awhile. Several of the city's geneticists are turning up dead and it has the town in an uproar. Cause of death? Being drained of all their blood, vampire style. Rumours start flying about a vampire roaming about, and it's up to Benten to pull together his network of contacts and affiliates to track down the source of all this terror. Like the two episodes before it, it follows a set pattern of murder-research-plot twist where Evil is revealed-HEARTPOUNDING CONFLICT!-dénouement, but in the detective/cop/investigation world, what doesn't? Still, it's better if you don't try to marathon the trilogy, lest you get sick of it much more easily. On its own though, it makes for a respectable rental.

Hyper Speed Grandoll
Central Park Media 90 min. 1/1 $19.99 07/06/2004

Remember those color by number books you had as a kid that would eliminate the need for creativity when coloring? Hyper Speed Grandoll is kind of like that. It's a science fiction tale like any other that you can predict from the first five minutes. A lovely couple is vacationing when they hear a BOOM. At the source of it is a little kid. No questions asked, they take her home and raise her as their own. Flash forward several years and this girl is now a student with mysterious abilities (like spouting robot parts whenever she needs them). She and her best friend try to carry on with their lives as normally as possible, given the circumstances, but all is changed when aliens start coming to earth. They're after an object that Hikaru had when she was first discovered, an armor called the Gran Knight. Alien after alien come down as Hikaru fights off every one of them. Eventually, the boss comes down, and the Ultimate Battle is waged. The end. There isn't a single plot twist in this story that could possibly come off as a surprise to any viewer, but even so, it still provides for a pleasurable rental. Plus, at only three episodes, you wouldn't really be wasting too much time.

Perishable Item

Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #7
ADV Films 75 min. 7/7 $24.98 07/06/2004

IT'S OVER!!!!!!!! LET THE PEASANTS AND MOOGLES REJOICE!!!!!! While the first six volumes were boring and dull, the last one is just outright disappointing. The original plan was for the series to continue longer, but was cancelled because of lack of viewers. So instead of a fleshed out ending, viewers are left with an incredibly rushed and incomplete ending that slaps together a boss fight and pulls some plot twists out of thin air to make everything seem cooler. As the crew is approaching Earl's castle, they realize that they have to have Flying Water in order to reach it. Luckily, they find someone who's able to tell them where to collect this precious material. Conveniently enough, they're spared the trouble when Earl comes down to meet them. But wait, he turns into a giant monster! *bbbbzzzhhhoooooooooooom* *cue screen flash and boss music* They fight, stuff happens, they find the twins' brain-washed parents, they learn a secret about the twins, and—it just ends. Just like that. It wasn't even a real ending. As dissatisfying as the earlier volumes are, they're at least somewhat interesting for Final Fantasy fanatics, but this ending will disappoint even the biggest fan. For as dull as the series was, it's almost a shame that they didn't stretch the series just one more volume longer so they could have attempted a more solid ending.

And that's that. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!

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