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Shelf Life
Highlights and Skylights

by Bamboo Dong,
With all the back to school mayhem for the past couple of weeks, Shelf Life had mysteriously fallen into the Abyss of Tardiness. Luckily, there's always a fix for everything, and in this case, you're staring at it. I present to you the Highlights edition of Shelf Life where we attempt to axe through an entire month of releases in one fell swoop... the best, the worst, and everything in between.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Shelf Worthy

Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #6 - Vengeance
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 6/6 $29.98 08/10/2004

Compared to the beginning of the series, Robin's role has really evolved over the episodes. Starting out as a predator of sorts, she eventually flopped over to being the prey, and somehow along the way got elevated to semi-saviour status. To say that her different roles aren't fascinating to compare and contrast would be the biggest shortchange of the century. Not only that, but volume six does wonders in clearing up any vague points in Witch Hunter Robin. No matter what questions you had regarding the series, rest assured that the last volume has an answer. Zaizen has his human hunters sweeping the cities, pulling enough strings to subtly attack a few STN-J members in the process. In the meantime, revelations about Robin's past and who she really is, start streaming out of every crevice. Explaining the whole deal behind the Original Sin and how it ties in with her, the new responsibility that Robin is given really puts the show in a new light. Looking back, it's interesting to see how far Witch Hunter Robin has come, in terms of story. It's made several shifts in how the characters act, and what their purpose in the story is. The ending is a wonderful way to cap off the series; it still retains a solid taste of action, but spends much of its time pulling out a few revelations to really give it that extra kick. True, things move a little too fast near the end, but it's still a great ending to a fantastic series. Put this on your shelf for sure.

Kaleido Star Vol. #3 - Great Expectations
ADV Films 100 min. 3/? $29.99 08/03/2004

With each passing episode, Kaleido Star only gets better and better. There may be a huge cast of characters, but they're all getting their own time to shine under the camera's light, which is a godsend for viewers who have a sieve-like memory for faces and names. Even better, the performances being animated are getting more elaborate, and even though it's just 2D characters on a pretty background, these scenes are still intensely fun to watch. Mix that in with increasingly fluid animation, and there's nothing that can hold this series down at this point. As Sora improves (unrealistically fast), her role on the Kaleido Stage slowly becomes more prominent. With a learning curve rivaled only by doping athletes, she's certainly not the darling of Layla, who's just as much of a prima donna ice queen as ever. As the episodes move on though, the wonder of Character Development works its magic and before you know it, not only is Layla warming up to the eager new girl, but is also playing host to a few tender flashbacks explaining her own frosty attitude. With the cast members getting closer and closer, watching the show almost gives you that same kind of warm fuzzy feeling as those “big family sitcoms” do, like Step by Step and the Brady Bunch. Half the fun is just in watching the characters interact with each other, so grab a disc, kick back, and enjoy their company.

Saikano Vol. #3 - Changes
Viz, LLC. 75 min. 3/4 $29.98 09/07/2004

Oh, just cut out my heart already! Why must this series be soooo painful?! The never-ending angst and tragedy continues in this tear-soaked volume of Saikano. With only one more volume to go, the heart-wrenching drama spends most of its time on the other people in Chise and Shuuji's life, fleshing out their world and keeping a brisk check on how the war is affecting everyone else. After wiping out another city, Chise gets the chance to sit back with Tetsu awhile and shoot the bull. It's here that viewers really get to catch another glimpse of how human Chise can be, filled with compassion and innocence even in her role as the Ultimate Weapon. No bit of kind-hearted chit chatting will prepare viewers for what happens near the end of the disc, though. A horrible occurence befalls Chise's hometown, and that can only mean one thing: lots and lots of pain for the viewer. The relationships between all of the characters get a rude redefinition before the disc is over as new links between them are slowly revealed. Showing how lives can so easily be affected by other people, and how fragile human life is, this volume of Saikano is nothing short of amazing. Be ready to bawl your eyes out.

Rental Shelf

Gundam SEED Vol. #1 - Grim Reality + Artbox + Soundtrack
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 1/? $44.98 08/10/2004
Gundam SEED Vol. #1 - Grim Reality
Bandai Entertainment 125 min. 1/? $22.98 08/10/2004

Back when Bandai released Gundam 0079, people were upset because it didn't include a Japanese language track. They were only mildly appeased when the Gundam movie trilogy came out, shoving all of 0079 into a tight-knit little bundle of films. But never fear, for Gundam SEED is here to fill all those voids in their delicate hearts! Taking place in a different continuum than any of the other previous Gundam incarnations, SEED had the convenience of not worrying about thinking up an original idea for its story. It just took 0079, made a carbon copy of it, ran it through a computer a few times to gussy it up, told TM Revolution to give it some Sexy, and VOILA! Instant hit. In Cosmic Era 71, a war is raging between genetically souped up people named Coordinators, and un-tampered Naturals. The latter group is struggling in the wake of their more technologically advanced enemy... but they have a secret weapon up their sleeve! Hint: It's a Gundam!! Through a series of unfortunate events, the Naturals are ambushed by the enemy, but one man is there to save the day—Kira Yamato. Unlike the original Gundam though, our heroic pilot doesn't waste any time going through the logical motions of learning how to drive the robot. He just picks up the controls, types in a few things, and zips off like he's been doing it for years. How convenient for the story. So far, the series runs a close gauntlet with 0079, which may either please or anger old-time Gundam fans. If you haven't seen this traditional Gundam story shtick done before, this will most likely entertain you with its classy artwork and its energy. Long time fans though... give it a whirl, but don't be expecting anything new, not this early in the game.

Saiyuki Vol. #12 - New World Order
ADV Films 100 min. 12/12 $29.98 08/03/2004

When a series has blood-streaked pretty boys touching themselves on every DVD cover, you can only expect the grand finale to be comparable to a grocery store novel—full of melodrama, angst, and tragic cheese. Filled with grandiose battles, freeze frame poses, and as much emotion as men can muster, the ending screams Drama Queen from every pore. As the characters get ready for the final showdown with Homura, the show takes a quick break for a token flashback. Dipping into Homura's past, his motivations and past childhood torment stories are revealed, milking a few last sympathies from the audience before he gets thrashed by our team of Abercrombie models. If you're a big fan of Saiyuki, you'll certainly enjoy these last few episodes. Considering there's still a movie and a couple of sequels coming up though, it doesn't have the closure that a solid, permanent ending would. Still, it's entertaining enough for fans of the series... but only for fans of the series. To anyone else, the ending is a bit too silly and histrionic.

Getbackers Vol. #1 - G & B On the Case + Artbox
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $39.98 08/24/2004
Getbackers Vol. #1 - G & B On the Case
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $29.98 08/24/2004

No matter what was stolen from you or what was lost, the Get Backers can retrieve them for you. Hence the name, Get Backers. From tracking down stuffed kitten keychains to people, no job is too trivial or hard for Ginji and Ban, a fun-loving duo of pretty boys that can kick the ass of anyone in their way. Like all pretty boys, these blokes have their fair share of “super powers” to make them even more appealing to fangirls. Ginji has the ability to control electricity, either by shooting bolts of lightning through his fingers or manipulating machines around him. Not to be outdone, Ban gets to shoot people the Evil Eye, trapping everyone in a realistic hallucination for a minute. Flaunting their powers to all they come across (conveniently spaced at one per episode), the series settles into a Bad Guy of the Week pattern. Luckily, it still finds the time to introduce a few new permanent characters along the way so things don't get too monotonous. While the series is fairly entertaining and action-packed so far, there's not much of a solid storyline to speak of. This will most likely change later in the show, but for now, give this a rental to see if it's something you might enjoy.

Case Closed Vol. #1 - The Secret Life of Jimmy Kudo
FUNimation 62 min. 1/? $19.98 08/24/2004
Case Closed Vol. #2 - Deadly Illusions
FUNimation 62 min. 2/? $19.98 08/24/2004

Does anyone remember those detective books they had for elementary school kids starring some kid nicknamed Encyclopedia Brown? Or how about the Boxcar Children? Case Closed is like a bizarre little combination of both, slanted towards a slightly more mature audience and not nearly as annoying. Shinichi Kudo is a high school detective whiz that was hot off one murder case, stumbles onto something bigger. But a couple of shady guys in black suits decide to get rid of him with an experimental poison. However, instead of killing him, the poison turns him into a grade-school aged kid. Taking on the moniker Conan Edogawa, Shinichi makes it his mission to track down those guys and get his body back. Along the way, he solves mystery after mystery with his gaggle of kiddie companions, giving it that good ol' Boxcar kick. Saying that Detective Conan is episodic is a massive understatement. Considering there are over 300 episodes of the series already, all it does is pick a new mystery every episode and find some clever way to solve it. It's not like you'd miss anything by skipping the first volume, but if you're ever in the need of random mystery kick, this might be fun to rent for a lazy afternoon.

Dokkoida!? Vol. #1 - Ultra Diaper Man + Artbox
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $39.98 08/24/2004
Dokkoida!? Vol. #1 - Ultra Diaper Man
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $29.98 08/24/2004

No more parody shows... please... ! This boom in parody anime is like the reality TV boom on American TV, except more hyperactive and with less drama. The only saving grace for Dokkoida is that if you ignore all the parodies, it can carry itself on sheer energy alone. Watching Dokkoida was like putting in Excel Saga for the first time. The characters are bouncy and hopped up on too many bottles of Jolt Cola, and the story is nothing more than a madcap laugh-fest clinging to a shard of plot. Set sometime in the future, there's a girl who wants to test out some new fighting gear. It may look like a diaper, but it gives you awesome powers. Meanwhile, a group of bad guys are trying to do the same thing. So now you've got some kid running around in diapered armor, and random enemy lackeys running around trying to defeat Diaper Boy. That's... pretty much it, actually. Not much of a story to speak of. If it's just chuckles you're looking for this weekend though, this might be a fun thing to pick up at the rental place. Hyper characters, no thinking required, and super charged energy? Hell yes.

Perishable Item

Nurse Witch Komugi Vol. #1 - A Vaccine for Humanity!
ADV Films 90 min. 1/2 $29.98 08/17/2004

I thought very long and hard about where to put this title, but it eventually made its way to the Perishable Items heap. It definitely has enough positive attributes to warrant it a rental-worthy disc... but there's also enough negative attributes to overshadow those. One of my greatest weaknesses has always been cute things. So in that respect, I completely adore Nurse Witch Komugi for its visuals and candy coating. The characters are a lot of fun to watch, and despite being a spin-off of a morose series like Soul Taker, Komugi is flooded with saccharine and sunshine. The problem isn't in the characters though; they're a riot. The problem is the story. There are only so many times you can be entertained by parody series before they all stop being funny. A virus has invaded Earth and a little fuzzy creature has been tapped to get rid of it. He bumps into Komugi, all dolled up in nurse cosplay, and sticks her with the job of protecting Earth. It's now up to her to use her newfound magical girl skills to destroy the virus, all while trying to achieve her goals of being a cosplay idol. This is entertaining enough, but the delivery is so dull and lifeless that the jokes just aren't funny. The sly parodies of magical girl shows go unnoticed half of the time because they're done in such a forced manner that they're just plain Not Funny. With all the cuteness saturating the series, it's almost a shame to see it get dragged down by screenwriters with the sense of humour of a dry paper rag. Unless you're a rabid Soul Taker fan and want this in your collection for giggles, or you're like me and can't get enough of cute things, you'd be better off leaving this out of your viewing pile.

Ikki-Tosen Vol. #1 - Legendary Fighter + Artbox + Limited Edition Items
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $44.98 08/10/2004
Ikki-Tosen Vol. #1 - Legendary Fighter
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $24.98 08/10/2004

Finally, the hidden reason about why Japan has such a high standard of living is revealed —your clothes are accidentally ripped off every time you set foot outside your house, creating a huge consumer demand for new garments that match your old ones to the seam. At least that's what happens if you're a spirited fighter with huge breasts. In the Kanto region of Japan, high school is more than just preparing for entrance exams. It's a full-blown war between students of the top seven schools to carry out ancient grudges that have raged for almost two millennia. Domination and honor is their only goal. In the midst of it all is a transfer student named Hakufu Sonsaku, a voluptuous girl who not only possesses the sacred beads required to be marked as a Fighter, but also enough sex appeal to warrant a breast jiggle or ass shot every two minutes. Unleashing her fiery desire to fight, she's rumoured to be the reincarnation of Shou-Haou, a legendary fighter that bitch slapped everyone in ancient China. The thing is, she's painfully dumb, so she's always losing her beads and accidentally stumbling into fights where her nipples get exposed fairly often. Thus the entirety of the first four episodes is just a girl walking around being ditzy, flashing her chest, and beating people up, devoid of any worthwhile storyline. Unlike many other fighting shows, Ikki-Tosen doesn't make any pretenses to hide its fanservice tendencies. It knows it's full of fanservice, and it's aching to shove it (and a moundful of sweaty breasts) into the viewer's face. From nipple shots to panty shots to bouncing boobs to a girl reaching orgasm in the middle of a fight, this show was created for the full purpose of jerking off guys to sex and violence. To make it even easier, Geneon even released a soft hand towel in the limited edition to cut down on the chafing. Unless you're looking for a more permanent alternative to a dirty magazine, Ikki-Tosen probably isn't the show for you. Just don't forget to wash the towel every now and then.

Miami Guns Vol. #2
AN Entertainment 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 08/03/2004

When I reviewed the first volume of Miami Guns so many weeks ago, I made a grave mistake. Through the trials of sleep deprivation, caffeine, and sugar, I was nearing a state of mind in which I was delirious enough to put Miami Guns in the Shelf Worthy section, egged on by the hilarity of the Initial D parody. I was wrong. When viewed in an unaltered mindset, Miami Guns is dull, dim-witted, and at best, mildly amusing. Don't be fooled by the name. Miami Guns doesn't actually take place in Miami (not that you could mistake the large wasteland in the series to the modern city anyway). It takes place in some far-future place of the same name, presumably only to confuse people into buying the series because it makes it sound like a cool cop show. In the first episode of this disc, our characters are led to Miami Western Village where they try to track down a killer, amidst plenty of tumbleweeds and cowboys. HAHA cowboys. HA. (Hint: this is supposed to make this an uproarious comedy.) After this, it spins off into more pop parody territory, using American pop culture as its victim. When a terrorist is on a rampage, they do their best to restrain him, backed by plenty of Bruce Willis heroics. I suppose if you're inebriated or you're with a huge group of giddy friends at some odd hour of the night, Miami Guns can be pretty funny. When you stack it up against other comedies like Cromartie High School, or even Excel Saga, it just can't pull its own weight. Maybe it would help if they slowed down and gave the jokes some time to sink in instead of firing them out like a junior high drama class comedy skit. Or maybe it'd be better if the parodies were a bit more subtle than “HAHA. MIAMI = OLD WEST!” Either way, this show just isn't funny.

Media Blasters 60 min. 1/1 $19.95 08/17/2004

The Law of Conservation of Matter states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be conserved. When you take a manga series and cram it into a short OVA, you manage to get a lot of content into the timeframe, but you lose all of the quality. Add on a story that's silly and done to death and you've got the recipe for a sports OVA that isn't worth the disc it was pressed on. I'll/CKBC (Crazy Kozou Basketball Club) had the potential to be a fairly entertaining series, but definitely got shafted in the running time department. Hitonari Hiiragi and Akane Tachibana were the stars of their respective high school basketball teams. Both exhibit the ambition and drive to succeed in the world of pro hoops, and won't let anyone stand in their way. It's therefore no surprise that they've been bitter rivals for as long as they've been playing each other. But when Hiragi is scouted by Kouzu to play alongside Tachibana, the two must Learn the Virtues of Respect and Teamwork in time for THE BIG GAME!!! Can they put aside their pasts and old feelings of bitterness long enough to play together side by side, and share the road to victory?!?!?!?!!!eleven1!!?1!!!! With such a simple and predictable story, it's a surprise that they had such a struggle fitting it into sixty minutes, but that's the one thing they actually do manage to accomplish. If it's basketball anime you want, wait for Dear Boys instead.

That's that. Stay tuned for more Shelf Life next week, and thanks for reading!

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