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Shelf Life
The Legend of Skanky Hollow

by Bamboo Dong,
When I was a kid, Halloween was an awesome time when my friends and I could dress up as super heroes and animals, wander listlessly through the streets, and gather enough candy to cramp our stomachs for a good week (at least!). Ever since I entered college, though, I started noticing a depressing trend. Halloween was no longer about getting candy, or even throwing parties. Halloween was about having an excuse to be the world's biggest slut. Left and right, girls dress up as Slutty Nurses, Slutty Maids, Slutty Schoolgirls, Slutty Animals, Slutty [insert appropriate noun here]... as long as you could get arrested for it on any other day, girls wear it. A friend of mine asked a girl in his dorm what she was dressing up as for Halloween, and she simply replied, “I don't know. Maybe I'll just wear something slutty.”

Girls: Being a slut is not a Halloween costume. You can't dress up as a “slut” for Halloween. That defies every thread of logic and good sense in humanity. If you're going to be a slut, at least be a slutty something. Just not wearing clothes just isn't going to cut it.

In conclusion, and in celebration of Satoshi Kon's magnificent work Paranoia Agent, I leave you with this pumpkin that I painstakingly carved just for this column. Welcome to Shelf Lfie.

Shelf Worthy

Paranoia Agent Vol. #1 - Enter Lil' Slugger + Artbox
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $39.98 10/26/2004
Paranoia Agent Vol. #1 - Enter Lil' Slugger
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $29.98 10/26/2004

Satoshi Kon is, in one word, a genius. With so many amazing movies under his belt, you'd think he'd eventually fizzle out and do something less than stellar. Not this time. Paranoia Agent is undoubtedly one of the best releases to come out this year. It blends the suspense and eerie atmosphere of Perfect Blue with the strong storytelling of Millenium Actress to form a series that deserves a place on everyone's shelf. The story opens with a character designer who is in a creative lull after designing Maromi, the hottest mascot to sweep through Japan since Hello Kitty. Retreating into a world of mental seclusion after being saddled with impossibly high expectations and workplace hostility, she is delivered from her misery when Shounen Bat, a baseball bat wielding punk with golden rollerblades, attacks her in the middle of the night. One by one, the people who are involved with each character are dragged into his web of attacks. This is where the series really shines, as it presents an unusual way of storytelling that lets each episode focus on a new person without having it slip into a pattern. What gives the show that old creepy kick though, is the way that we see things through each character's mind as they travel through a variety of psychological abnormalities, like seeing stuffed animals talk, or seeing the world distort around them. Paranoia Agent is more than a little surreal, and definitely bizarre, but it definitely has what it takes to keep viewers on the edge of their seats for 100 minutes. Kon has long been a master of thought-provoking material, and this is no exception. Buy this now; you won't regret it.

Rental Shelf

eX-Driver the Movie
Geneon Entertainment 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 10/19/2004

eX-Driver the Movie is fun and entertaining, but oh-so-bad in a way that simply cannot be described. Let me paint you a brief scenario. The movie has Americans wearing jumpsuits decorated with the stars and stripes, Italians obsessing over pasta and talking about their old mafia days, and Chinese men doing kung-fu and being called Peking Duck. You see, it's not like the movie goes out of its way to be racist or derogatory... it just offends and awes with its naïve stereotyping, in that kind of “Oh, I cannot believe they just said that!” way. Thankfully, the story itself is entertaining. When the ex-Drivers go to America to race in the world tournament, they find themselves in the middle of a family feud—one involving hatred, scammed money, and the life of a twelve year girl with melons the size of grapefruits. For some reason, she is doing everything she can to sabotage the race. She suspects her empowered father of gambling with eX-Driver data, but it turns out to be much more sinister than that. Racial stereotypes aside, a movie has a problem when one of the character sets a bomb to go off in five minutes and then the writers completely forget about it and let the bomb slip right out of the storyline. Smooth. Also packaged with the movie is an OVA following an eX-Driver and her partner as they race through the streets of Japan, chasing a creepy stalker and trying to unearth why tiny remote-controlled cars are capable of stopping traffic. Sadly, I think the OVA is more entertaining than the movie, but if that's what makes the disc worth watching, so be it. The movie may cause a lot of eye-rolling and groaning, but if anything else, the OVA is good for a solid rental.

R.O.D. the TV Vol. #3 - The Past
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 3/? $29.98 10/26/2004

Without a doubt, ROD the TV is a good show. However, there's one thing that sets apart lovers of the show, and lukewarm receptors of the show: how much you like the characters. Alas, I find them to be incredibly annoying—but I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one. With volume three underway, the sisters carry out more missions for Dokusensha. This time around though, they're beginning to suspect that there's a lot about the organization that they don't know. In the meantime, there's just enough time for some character exposition, as viewers finally get to see how the girls met, and how it was that they became “sisters.” What makes this volume more interesting than the ones preceding it is the last episode on this disc. The true nature of Dokusensha is finally revealed, as well as their motivations, and it's quite a big surprise. Needless to say, things are finally heating up. The next volume should be interesting, so whether you love this show or are just mildly interested by it, give this one a quick peek. Just beware of the hideous mini-pencil board on the inside. I never realized Nenene was one for badly drawn fanservice. Gross.

Marmalade Boy Collection 2
TOKYOPOP 475 min. 2/? $99.99 10/26/2004

Teen drama, teen drama, teen drama. Will it never end? Of course not; it's Marmalade Boy, the show that defined shoujo melodrama. Miki and Yuu are pining after each other like crazy, but nothing is ever easy in the world of shoujo. Instead, Miki plays the role of Insecure, Paranoid Wannabe Girlfriend, who freaks out every time Yuu talks to another human being. It doesn't help that Ginta and Arimi are trying to screw things up by stealing away the main characters from each other. Still, if there's one thing that's irresistible about Marmalade Boy, it's the way that this drama keeps pushing the two main characters closer and closer together. You can't help but root for Miki and Yuu, even through all the cheese, drama, and annoyances. I was really excited when Marmalade Boy was first announced, and the excitement is still there. My only regret is that the video quality is just as bad as one would expect watching it on old VHS fansubs. I suppose we can't all get what we want—but you can get shoujo like it was meant to be seen. Borrow this from a friend if you're not willing to drop the $100. They don't make high-pitched, tear-splattering angst drama like this anymore.

Gravitation Vol. #4 - Secrets of a Troubled Past
Right Stuf International 75 min. 4/4 $29.95 10/26/2004

The word of the week is ANGST, and Gravitation has plenty of it. That, and pretty boys making out, of course, which is probably one of the main reasons that it's as popular amongst the girls as it is. In the last volume, the stage is set for a last round of drama and flair before the lights go out. Yuki is ill once again, and his loved ones are worried sick over him. Believing that Shuichi is the source of all the stress that is making Yuki ill, they forbid the boy to meet with Yuki any more. This conveniently leads to just the right dose of character development, letting the younger boy learn more things about Yuki, like his trouble past and the source of all his ANGST. Thankfully, they do end up getting to spend some time together in the disc. All in all, the finale of Gravitation gathers up any loose ends that were present. It's not the most thrilling ending that could take place, but it gets the job done. If you've been following this show so far, you might as well finish it up. Nothing like some ANGST to flesh out your weekend.

Gad Guard Vol. #3 - Persona
Geneon Entertainment100 min. 3/? $29.98 10/26/2004

There's something about Gad Guard that makes me want to lean back, close my eyes... and sleep. It's entirely possible that it's because it's one of the dullest shows on the planet, and it takes a real pro to make it through each episode. The third volume of Gad Guard spends a lot of time doing what the earlier ones did. Random handfuls of characters wander around random towns, staring pretentiously at sunsets and muttering philosophical nothings under their breath. Katana wanders into a piece of his past when he goes scrounging around some town for robot parts. There he does pretentious things like stare at sunsets, play with his robot, and do typical Gad Guard things. Replace Katana with someone else, and there go the next three episodes after that. Add some revelations about characters' pasts, throw in some familial angst, and the volume's set. It's not that Gad Guard isn't an interesting show, it's that it's boring. As. Sin. That proves to be its downfall. If you have the patience to sit through Gad Guard, all the more power to you. You'll be rewarded at the end of it with a few cool fight scenes, intriguing character development, and an interesting story. Just give it a rental first. It might be cheaper to buy sleeping pills.

Perishable Item

Angel Tales Vol. #3
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 3/4 $29.98 10/26/2004

Twelve cute girls living under the same roof as a useless guy who just happens to have his own place? BRILLIANT! Wherever did they come up with this idea?!! Heading (weakly) into the second half of this delectable harem fest, Angel Tales cranks up the surprise factor and pulls out, hold your breath ladies and gentleman, a plot. Upon seeing an ad for a job placement, Goro heads out to meet his potential employers. When he gets there, he finds out they are, in fact, a trio of non-human brothers who are trying to resurrect a fourth sibling who wants to take over the world. Somewhere along the way, they decide that they each want to take one of the girls as a bride. In a situation like this, what could a harem series possibly do? That's right! 3-2-1—cue the bathing suits! In a stroke of uncreativity, the writers decide to send the women to a pool so viewers can gaze upon their supple breasts and their wet swimsuits in basement-ridden glee, furthering the notion that Angel Tales is good for nothing but masturbation and ribaldry. Watch something else this week.

Due to some screener mixups, Shelf Life is a bit short this time around. Next time though, I'll be throwing in some of this week's titles into that list, so thanks for your patience! In the same vein, one of the titles from last week was thrown into this week's column due to the same kind of mixup. We'll have this sorted out soon; thanks for reading!

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