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Shelf Life
Poison Paradise

by Bamboo Dong,
People often complain that the current music scene isn't good for kids. With all the references to sex, drugs, and more sex, who could blame them? When nine-year old girls start dressing up in pleather mini skirts and midriff-baring mesh shirts in order to imitate their favorite pop idols, it's time for a new wave of cleanliness to roar through the music industry. One thing's for sure—that new wave won't be the Kidz Bop series any time soon. Making compilations of the most popular tunes out there, the songs are re-recorded by kids and “cleaned” up. By cleaned up, they mean changing words like “damn” to “darn,” and leaving everything else intact. Surely, a song about sex is made so much more pure by removing the cursing, right?

The latest compilation, volume six, features songs like Britney's “Toxic” and Sean Paul's “I'm Still in Love with You.” Free of cursing, the latter is filled with nice, wholesome lyrics like, “I'm still in love with you boy... Well I'm a hustler and a playa and you I'm not a staya” and “Girl, well I never had to promise you no bling bling to hold you girl.” Really, why bother even rerecording a CD with kids' voices if you can just buy your children all the different NOW! CDs? Clean, indeed.

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Shelf Worthy

Figure 17 Vol. #6 - Memories Remain
Media Blasters 90 min. 6/6 $29.99 07/13/2004

When this relatively unknown series first started, who ever thought that it would actually get good? As the gates close, it's escalated from a mildly interesting series to an impacting drama that packs a strong emotional punch. With the Mother Maguar uncovered, the full scope of the enemies' stronghold is finally revealed. Things gear up for the ultimate battle, but even while that's raging, there's something more important taking center stage—the relationship between Tsubasa and Hikaru. The changes that have taken place in Tsubasa's character have been one of the high points in the show, and it's heartbreaking to see her as she struggles to cope with having to leave her friends and move to Tokyo. Hoping to ease the pain, Hikaru's started to distance herself in an attempt to make the separation easier, but that only causes more pain than originally planned. Really, it's these interactions between the two girls that make the series so good. Their personalities have been so carefully crafted throughout the six volumes that they seem like real people. If you've been following up until now, you can't pass this DVD up. Series finales have always been a weakness of mine, and this emotional ending of Figure 17 definitely hits the spot.

Rental Shelf

Megazone 23 Part 2
ADV Films 85 min. 2/? $29.98 07/13/2004

As an action story, the second part of Megazone 23 doesn't live up to its predecessor. As a chunk of social history, it works beautifully. Taking place half a year after the end of part one, it opens up at an arcade with 80s rock blaring through the speakers and pinball machines ringing happily. The atmosphere of the era is exemplified by a sign hanging outside calling for youth to rally together and fight for change. Like the first volume, it represents an era of Japan filled with disillusioned teenagers and social unrest. While Yahagi's been hiding out from the authorities, who were falsely accusing him of murder, the government's been amassing a huge army, convenient for hunting down blokes like him. At the same time, he's assembled... a biker gang. Most of his biker mates think he's off his rocker, but they're willing to lay their lives on the line for his ideals. The problem is, instead of picking up on the momentum of the first volume, the episodes waste time showcasing random fights. It's not until the very end that the story kicks up again and takes the focus back to Eve, who tells Yahagi what he needs to do in order to save the world from Government Oppression(!). In comparison with the first part, this installment doesn't have quite the same pizzazz or drive, but it's still an exciting bundle of episodes well worth watching. Just don't expect it to be anything like volume one. It doesn't even look the same.

Tenchi Muyo GXP Vol. #4 - New Illusions
FUNimation Productions 75 min. 3/? $24.98 07/13/2004

Rejoice, for the cabbit is baaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!! Now that the fluffy little critter is back, everything's starting to feel a lot more like the original comedy, except the girls aren't nearly as annoying this time around. There's more frivolous fun in these episodes, as Seina gets sent all over the universe to run meaningless errands. Meanwhile, he's falling prey to the traditional harem trap of “Help! All the girls love me! But I have so much bad luck that I can't get laid!” Fanservice aside, this volume of GXP gets an extra gold star just for taking the time to expand on a few characters' pasts, delving this time into Ryoko and a new jailbait girl named Neju. If only all harem shows took the time to develop some of the characters, the whole world would be a much nicer place. In any case, if it hasn't been made clear already by volume three, GXP can hold its own against the Tenchi name without a doubt. Fun and with just the right touches of seriousness when necessary, this is shaping up to be something that even non-Tenchi fans can have fun with. Unless, of course, silly harem shows aren't your thing. On the upside though, there's a cabbit. Who doesn't love a cute cabbit?

ADV Films 85 min. 1/1 $24.98 07/13/2004

Welcome, my friends, to Mouth Flap City. Population: less than 50. Notable landmarks: quite possibly the only anime I've ever seen in its original language where mouths will start flapping several seconds before the dialogue begins. Add to that a contrived storyline and this year's lamest ending, it racks up negative points fast. But what it lacks in imagination and technical merit, it makes up in style. The art is simplistic and barren, overstocked with bright colors that make it feel like a Lichtenstein painting come to life. If you just threw in a few “POW!”s and “ZOOM!”s, the surreal feeling of being tossed into a superhero comic would be complete. Fans familiar with the name Joe Hisaishi will also be surprised with the movie's soundtrack. Instead of sweet orchestrations, music ranging from hectic house mixes to 80s riffs reminiscent of “Better Off Dead” echoes hollowly from a flat audio mix. Even so, just the combined impact of the glaringly bright artwork and the detached music is enough reason to check out this apocalyptic tale. The entire movie stages a war between the Organics and the Inorganics, robots with phallic heads that are bent on destroying humanity. The prize booty? A glowing sword called a SHADE that holds the entire consciousness of the universe. Never mind that the movie spends more time on endless fights than the actual story. It's just as well, since the ending is a complete cop-out. Despite all the things that bring down this title, it's still very much worth watching. Even the unique artwork and the Wile E. Coyote-esque scenarios make this something that can captivate anyone's interest. Give it a quick look and see for yourself. Oh, and that chick on the cover with the blue jumpsuit? She's not actually in the anime.

Dragon Ball GT Lost Episodes Vol. #1: Reaction + Artbox
FUNimation 62 min. 1/? $34.98 07/13/2004
Dragon Ball GT Lost Episodes Vol. #1: Reaction
FUNimation 62 min. 1/? $24.98 07/13/2004

ZOMG, the world's gonna exploooooooooooode! Wait. Let's go back to the beginning of the series and figure out why. After finishing their release of Dragon Ball GT, FUNimation decided to back track and release the first fifteen episodes, starting with this three-episode disc. Taking things back to the source, we discover that Emperor Pilaf has summoned the dragon balls so he can take over the world. But as it turns out, they weren't just any balls, they were really big and powerful balls! As luck would have it, he screws up his request and ends up shrinking Goku down to a kid. Goku's okay with it, but his gals aren't down with prepubescent boys, and to make it worse, if he and his friends don't get the balls back, the world will explode. If the latter episodes were any indication, Dragon Ball GT is pretty goofy. It's nothing like the other series, and opts for fun and excitement over any serious action. It's a little annoying that FUNimation's waited until now to release these episodes, but if you're a fan of GT, this will be something you'll want to check out for sure. Likewise, if you don't have any interest in the franchise whatsoever, this probably won't appeal to you.

Initial D Vol. #6 - Terror of Mount Usui
TOKYOPOP 75 min. 6/? $19.99 07/13/2004

Tokyopop really needs to stop with this “three episodes” thing. By the time anyone gets into the show again—*POOF!* End of the disc. Utterly useless. For all the girls who were waiting to see their gender represented behind the wheel though, they got their wish. Mako and Sayuki are the fastest racers on Mount Usui, placing their stock in a sleek blue Sileighty. A slick car based off the RPS13 180SX and fronted with a Nissan S13/14 Silvia, it's not surprising they chose to use it in Initial D. It's only a damned shame that the horrid CG art doesn't do the car the slightest bit of justice. More importantly though, this is the first time Takumi gets to set his wheels on foreign turf, which lets viewers finally see some growth in his character. Up until now, he's raced out of obligation and boredom, and it's with his preparation for this race that his racing spirit starts to shine through. Of course, it does take some arm-twisting by Iketani to get him to enter the race, but it's all good fun after that. If you dig the series and all the hot cars, you'll want to see this next installment of Initial D for sure. Given the heavy emphasis on street racing though, it's targeted at a rather niche audience so it might not be something you'll want to stick on your shelf unless you know you'll love it.

Wedding Peach Vol. #04 - Summer Flower
ADV Films 125 min. 4/10 $29.98 07/13/2004

So... lame... Can't... stop watching... Must... get more... repetitive mahou shoujo... Normally, I can't stand watching more than two magical girl episodes in a row, but there's something about Wedding Peach that appeals to me. Maybe it's the dorkiness of everything, or maybe it's the cute character designs, but either way, it's an underrated show that every fan of magical girls should check out. Raindevila's minions are out on the prowl for the Saint Something Four, but the Love Angels are bent on getting them first. One by one, the Saint Somethings are revealed, providing the girls with even more chances to use the same transformations and attacks twice an episode. What does make this series easier to swallow than some other magical girls show is that even though it follows a set pattern, it mixes things up by spending just as much time on the characters' emotions. In between all the fighting, audiences get to plunge into the girls' lives, seeing what really makes them tick and how they relate to the situations at hand. It's good that there's something like this that keeps the show afloat. After all, watching girls looking for things that are Something Old, Something New, etc, would overflow the Lame-O-Meter too fast otherwise.

Saber Marionette R
Media Blasters 90 min. 1/1 $19.95 07/13/2004

And in the beginning, before there was a franchise of Saber Marionette properties, there was Saber Marionette R. I admit with humiliation that it took me years to figure out what R and J stood for. In the far off kingdom of Romana, the rapidly diminishing female population is being replaced by Marionettes. Holding all the power is King Virey, a personality-less tool with two sons named Virey Junior and Star Face. Junior is the younger of the two and is loyally attended to by three marionettes: Cherry, Lime, and Bloodberry. His brother gets even cooler dolls named sexadolls. Guess what they're good for? Like all villains, Star Face decides that he wants to take over the world, and it's doll vs. doll for the rest of the OVA. Fans of the later Saber Marionette series might be a little surprised at the relative maturity of these episodes, but it's still an interesting viewing experience. Toning down the wackiness prevalent in the J series, it's not as well thought out, but it still provides for a good time.

Viper GTS
Kitty Media 90 min. 1/1 $29.95 07/13/2004

Accented in chrome and leather, the latest Viper GTS combines the firm maneuverabi—Oh. That's right, we're not talking about the car. We're talking about the hentai based on a game that has absolutely nothing to do with wheels. It just names itself after a sports car because the three main girls are named Carrera, Rati, and Mercedes, an insipid naming scheme that may as well have characters named Passat, Honda, and Transmission. Directed by Masami Obarii, famous for his nonsensical shows filled with bobbling breasts, Viper GTS manages to hit the right target like most hentai should—plenty of gags (no pun intended), cheesy excuses to have sex, and horny characters that exist to be laughed at. In the show, Earth is watched over by the devil world and the angel world. The devils are all buxom females who grant favors to humans in exchange for their souls. Ogawa is a puny, but ludicrously well-hung guy who summons Carrera to exact revenge on everyone who's ever picked on him. When he glimpses her oiled body though, he decides to ask her to pleasure him instead. The sex fest begins here. For a long time. In the end, the angels decide that they need to punish the devils, so they sprout man berries and anoint the devils over and over again with “Holy Water” (read: SPERM) and God's Tool. I'm not sure how serious Obarii was taking the project, but I was rolling at some of the scenes. Hentai is best when it's cheesy and stupid, and this is no exception.

And that's a wrap. See ya next time!

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