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Shelf Life
Platinum Gilding

by Bamboo Dong,
One of the best things about car radios is having (at least) six presets at your disposal. If one station is playing Linkin Park's “Breaking the Habit” for the second time that hour, you can quickly change stations and listen to someone else play “Let's Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas for the second time that hour. Having the same fourteen songs at your fingertips is truly an awe-inspiring thing that simply cannot be compared to. However, there's also one hideous downside to this convenience. Every station plays their commercials at exactly the same time. At least in my neck of the woods, they do. As soon as one of them starts playing ads, it triggers some kind of “Commercial Time!” fury across the state, so you have no choice but to listen to them. Thanks, radio, for giving me a choice.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. #1 - Platinum Edition + Artbox
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $39.98 07/27/2004
Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. #1 - Platinum Edition
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $29.98 07/27/2004

You bought it once on VHS, you bought it again on DVD, you bought it a third time when the director's cut came out—you WILL buy it again. Forget all of those other piddly tapes or discs you have in your collection. This is the last version of Evangelion you'll ever need (until they release it with a director's commentary or a limited edition soap bar). The video has been remastered and nothing short of putting it on high-res IMAX will ever make it look any better. The audio tracks have been given the 5.1 touch-up as well, and if there's one thing every Eva fan needs, it's the chance to hear Angelic screeches resonating from every corner of their room. Newcomers, your timing is perfect, because this is something that everyone needs to see at least once in their lives. The story opens in a town that has been completely evacuated, save for a lone boy named Shinji. Patiently waiting for some kooky woman to pick him up, he suddenly finds himself face to face with a giant monster—a creature he later learns to be an Angel. Little does he know that less than five hours later, he'll be inside an Evangelion, fighting against this same creature. The robot anime that stunned a generation of mecha fans, Neon Genesis Evangelion is an absolute must see, and what better way to see it than crisply and vibrantly remastered? Get it for your shelf, pronto.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 1 - Special Edition
Manga Entertainment 120 min. 1/? $49.95 07/27/2004
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 1
Manga Entertainment 120 min. 1/? $24.95 07/27/2004

The second I saw the opening animation for the series, I was sold. Kicking off with a chilling, all-CG sequence complemented with gorgeous Russian vocals provided by Origa, it sets the mood of the series perfectly. Set in the year 2030, technology has entrenched itself deeply in society. It's now possible to replace chunks of your body with mechanical parts and even switch between artificial bodies by carrying your brain in a box. Eerie? Yes. Cool? Hell yes. Naturally, this sets the stage for plenty of political issues. For instance, if someone's body was destroyed, but not their brain, would that classify as murder? Luckily, Section 9 is there to take care of all these special crimes. A branch of Public Safety made up of a group of specialists, their job is to keep an eye on technology-related crimes. Whether it's a hacker hijacking people's brains, robots going berserk, or prosthetic government officials trying to smuggle classified information out of the country, it's up to Motoko Kusanagi and her colleagues to keep everything under control. Stand Alone Complex is made up of two types of episodes: Stand Alone episodes, which are one-shots, and Complex episodes, which make up a larger story line. Both give fascinating glimpses into the society in which they live, and if you're at all familiar with the original Ghost in the Shell, you won't have a problem immersing yourself in their world. Despite how cool the series is though, I highly dissuade against purchasing the Special Edition DVD. The Special Edition comes with two DVDs and an original soundtrack. One of the DVDs has the episodes in anamorphic widescreen and DTS 5.1... but it doesn't have any of the extras. So the second DVD is the exact same DVD as the standard issue, just so people can get the disc extras too. This to me is incredibly stupid. Why anyone would want two copies of the same episodes is beyond me. Still, the series is worth collecting. Just think hard before you automatically reach for that shiny Special Edition.

Comic Party Vol. #4 - The Final Page
Right Stuf International 132 min. 4/4 $29.95 07/27/2004

With the resounding finale of Comic Party, TRSI has done it again with another fabulous release. From the packaging to the translations, everything about this series was carried out just the way fans would have wanted. What better way to celebrate a show about manga fans then giving it a 100% Picky Fan Approval treatment? After the disappointment Kazuki suffered at the summer Comic Party, he's lost his faith in his ability to draw. Luckily, all of his friends are there to give him support. When the school cultural fest rolls around, he finds himself heading his class's café, even drawing the promotional flyers. A measly poster won't bring his confidence back though, and it takes a chance meeting with a dedicated fan to rekindle his desire to draw. Of course, there's no one more thrilled than Taishi, who can now revitalize his fiery dreams of taking over world through the manga industry. Overall, this is just a great ending to an already fun series. The characters are a joy to watch and seeing Mizuki finally open up to Kazuki is a real treat. Comic Party may not nearly be good enough to join the ranks of mockumentary greats like Otaku no Video, but it's still good enough to keep for your collection.

Kiddy Grade Vol. #5 - The Freedom of Truth
FUNimation 75 min. 5/7 $24.98 07/27/2004

What started out as a fairly entertaining, episodic anime about girls with lipstick lasers has quickly turned into a fast paced goose chase and a flight from the past. With GOTT hot on their trails, Éclair and Lumiere hole up in an abandoned sector of the galaxy. There, flashes of the past come back to haunt them, giving the viewers the chance to track just how much both girls have changed over the years. Meanwhile, there's plenty of drama back at headquarters, since none of the members are particularly happy about having the duo on their hunting list. Given how many characters there are in the show, the man-hunt escapades provide the perfect segue for character flashbacks, taking each person and examining their past and how they feel about the present events. It really helps balance out the pacing and keeps the focus on the lead players. All in all, Kiddy Grade is really living up to its potential. It may have started out a bit drab, but it definitely picked up quick. My only regret is that there were only three episodes on this disc.

Rental Shelf

Heat Guy J Vol. #7 - Revolution + Artbox + Extras Disc
Geneon 120 min. 7/7 $39.98 07/27/2004
Heat Guy J Vol. #7 - Revolution
Geneon 120 min. 7/7 $29.98 07/27/2004

Since its beginning, Heat Guy J has always been a highly underrated and incredibly overlooked series. It's been getting steadily better and better over the last few volumes, so it's no surprise that this final disc is the highlight of the series. The rook is finally moved into check, and everything starts falling slowly into place. Or rather, in an ideal rendition of this series, everything would slowly fall into place, but as it is, the scenes are a little too rushed. The show would have done well to have another episode or two to flesh things out, but they serve their purpose well. With Shun running around playing out his saviour complex, the people that he's manipulated so far are carrying out his plans without a glitch. It's up to Daisuke and J to stop the wheels that are already in motion and like any good action film, the climax is a clash of gorgeous fight scenes. Sadly, the pacing is enough to kill the momentum of the series and make things a bit awkward, but it's still an exciting way to end the series. Pop it in your DVD player and see for yourself.

Stratos 4 Vol. #1 - Blast Off + Artbox
Bandai 100 min. 1/? $34.98 07/27/2004
Stratos 4 Vol. #1 - Blast Off
Bandai 100 min. 1/? $29.98 07/27/2004

Quick! Call Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck! Earth is being attacked by killer meteorites, which mysteriously haven't affected the orbit of anything else in the solar system! Mankind's only hope is to vaporize them while they're in space, and send teenagers after the stray bits that fall through the atmosphere!! Right. At some point in the future, a barrage of comets has decided to head straight for Earth. Scientific incongruencies aside, this presents a huge problem for humanity. To get rid of any meteor chunks that enter Earth, they have to send pilots out in airplanes to shoot them down. With bases all over the world ready to combat this terror, it's no surprise that Japan would have one of their own, armed with short-skirted pilots ready to take on the danger. It's a fairly straightforward show, but most of the fun is in watching the characters. The lead girl is the unmotivated daughter of two important pilots. She couldn't care less about her duties, and as a result, people on the base rag on her for getting the job because of her parents. Within the course of four episodes though, she turns a 180 and decides that saving the world with a few of her pilot gal pals would be a great thing to strive for after all. So far, there's not much to the series that gives any indication of a solid story line, but with nine episodes to go, it's far from over. It has plenty of potential, so if you're looking for a quick anime fix this weekend, give this one a shot.

.hack//Legend of the Twilight Vol. #2 - Enter the Nightmare!
Bandai 100 min. $29.98 2/? 07/27/2004

Chibi Hack is ready to go with a second volume, and already, it's more engrossing than I ever thought would be possible. Despite how cute and fluffy it looks, it still packs in a solid story. Mysterious happenings have been happening all over the World. Players have been unable to log out of the game, and the characters that have been deleted are disappearing for good. The mods are doing everything they can, but in such a big community, there needs to be a careful balance between careful moderation and the unrest that could ensue from outright tyranny. Of course, with any show about an RPG, plenty of time is spent watching characters level up. Luckily, this means the audience gets to check out some new places and new monsters, so it's plenty entertaining for a short while. Under the sugar coating of the chibi characters though, something sinister is still lurking. The deletion of game characters may have seemed like a distant event to our bubbly group, but it suddenly strikes a lot closer to home when Rena ends up on The Deleted list. In many ways, .hack//Legend is similar to .hack//SIGN, but in just as many ways, the two are completely different. The atmosphere in Legend is much more lively and exuberant, but even with the cuteness of it all, it still retains the aura of the first series. If you were a fan of the games or .hack//SIGN, you'll want to check this out for sure. For everyone else... well, shows that make it feel like you're watching someone play an RPG might not be your thing. For a frivolous piece of entertainment with an interesting storyline though, it gets the job done.

NaNa 7 of 7 Vol. #1 - The Luckiest Number
Media Blasters 125 min. 1/6 $29.99 07/27/2004

By all logic, I should dislike this show. It has everything that annoys me—girls with lousy magical powers, girls that live vicariously through one exaggerated emotion, and multiple girls squabbling over one guy. But for some reason, this show doesn't bother me at all. Maybe it's because of the unique way that it's presented, but it comes off as an interesting, if somewhat contrived, jaunt into the girl-fights-over-boy realm. Nana's grandfather is an inventor that is trying to capture a rainbow. He is thrilled when he discovers a crystal that will let him split white light into a full prism (insulting the intelligence of thousands of viewers in the meantime, who have taken at least five days of junior high physics), once he finishes roasting it for a few minutes in the microwave. Along comes Nana who opens the microwave, only to be split into seven clones—each with a shard of her personality. You have the mopey one, the catty one, the energetic one... you get the idea. When the crystal exploded though, it also gave them the ability to do stuff, like fly. All they really need is sentai costumes and they're ready to save the day and use their different personalities to try to win over the boy that Nana has a crush on. And... so like an obedient anime, that's what it does. Just like that. Between all the different Nanas and the constant bickering between them, this show has more than enough to drive a viewer up a wall. Even so, it's fun enough to soak up a boring afternoon, so give this a quick peek.

Rurouni Kenshin Box Set 3 - Meiji Era
Media Blasters 825 min. 1/1 $149.95 07/27/2004

Filler episodes for an entire season? Brilliant! After the resounding success of the Kyoto arc, Kenshin fans clamoured anxiously for more episodes, and Sony obliged. The problem was, Nobuhiro Watsuki wasn't done with the manga yet. What was a company to do if they didn't have source material to base an entire arc of anime off of? That's right; they made it up. To be fair, the episodes are funny and the fight scenes are just as entertaining as they were in the first season, but after the rush of the Kyoto arc, the disappointment was like being pushed out of an airplane after your wedding day. Gone is the entire revenge arc with Enishi, Tomoe's younger brother (later featured briefly in both Kenshin OVAs). Instead, the last arc replays like the first one and kills any of the momentum that the awe-inspiring end Kenshin's adventures in Kyoto had. If you're a diehard Rurouni Kenshin fan, it's still worth watching the third arc just for fun, but don't be expecting anything too spectacular. Just wait for the manga series to finish its domestic run and pick that up instead.

Galaxy Angel Vol. #3 - Stranded Without Dessert
Bandai 105 min. 3/4 $29.98 7/27/2004

The great thing about dessert is that even though they're all virtually made of the same ingredients, each concoction returns with a wholly different flavor and a mouthful of sugar. The same can pretty much be said for Galaxy Angel. Like the past two volumes, it relies on silly gags and character-driven humour to elicit good times and plenty of laughs. There isn't anything remotely creative that differentiates the episodes, but even in the third discs, it's still fun to watch in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Right at the beginning, we find Vanilla looking very desperate and forlorn after losing something very precious to her. Leave it to Milfeulle to go look for it, bringing back anything and everything her luck bumps into, like priceless heirlooms and winning lottery tickets. Later on, the girls carry out more antics, like getting chased by rabid space monkeys and going on disastrous dates. Really, it's just a hodgepodge of quirky entertainment. Not all anime has to be mind-stimulating—in fact, this one's quite the opposite. Repetitive jokes, space-thin storylines... it's light years away from being a masterpiece, but it's a great way to butcher off a 105 minutes of anyone's time.

Perishable Item

Arts Magic 80 min. 1/1 $24.98 07/27/2004

There is nothing quite more disturbing than poorly rendered CG hentai. Maybe it's the way giant phalluses find their way into plastic girls, or maybe it's just the unsexiness of the whole thing. It also doesn't help that Malice@Doll is one of the most visually disturbing things to come out of Japan in the last century. If you take out the hentai elements and just see it as a short film, it works well. Dabbling in existentialism and the questions of what it really means to be alive, it examines the psyche as vigorously as an introductory text on psychology. In the story, Dolls are robots that were created to be prostitutes. One day, a doll named Malice goes off to find a repairman to fix her badly layered CG coolant leak. Along the way, she stumbles into a part of the brothel she's never seen before, where she is assaulted by a vilely disgusting Art Deco Penis Demon. When she wakes up, she's human. Convinced that she's a messenger of love, she kisses the Dolls and machines around her, transfiguring them into horrifying entities that are finally able to feel real emotion. Alas, the problem is that no matter how fascinating the underlying premise of Malice@Doll may be, it's still a hentai, and it's still being marketed as one. And therein lies the problem. As a small OVA designed to be pretentiously thought-provoking, it gets the job done adequately well. As a hentai, it would sooner make people claw their eyes out than get turned on. As a result of this hideous combination, the entire production entirely fails. It's too foolish to be taken seriously as a piece of art, and too incredibly ugly and pompously overbearing to be seen as a casual romp into Sexville. All it can ever hope for is to be mislabeled as a bad hentai with hideous characters and creepy sex scenes. It's a damned shame that the production staff had to waste all their hard work by dirtying it with sex.

Demon Lord Dante Vol. #2 - Dante Rages
Geneon 100 min. 2/4 $29.98 07/27/2004

Oh, Gō Nagai, my sworn enemy! Thou darest destroy my happiness with more dull and incredibly lame storylines! In the first volume, we discovered that someone is able to transform into THE DEMON LORD™, the evilest being in all the lands. Better yet, we find out that he was actually Judas, which theologically speaking, is kind of lame because there were worse people they could have chosen like, uh, Lucifer. As he rages across the lands, the Japanese military does everything they can to stomp out the raging fires of THE DEMON LORD™, including assaulting him with napalm (because clearly Demon Lords are scared of hot chemicals that make you burn). Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work. Luckily for them, the Russian government has uncovered a hidden door that has sealed four Demon Kings. Unleashing them unto the world, they rage across the earth, destroying everything in their path to get to THE DEMON LORD™. For as incredibly violent as all of this is, it's viciously boring. There isn't a single thing to keep viewers awake, aside from a few interesting forays into religious doctrine on Good vs. Evil and the morality of holy wars. What makes something good, and what makes something bad? If you do something bad in the name of God... is it therefore good? Questions like that are examined throughout the course of this phenomenally dull show and keep it from being complete dredge. Unless you're interested in hearing Nagai's views on this, stay away from the show. Even the baddest DEMON LORD™ in the world won't make this filth worth seeing.

And that's the way the cookie crumbles. See you next time, and thanks for reading!

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