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Shelf Life
Upward Spiral

by Bamboo Dong,
I'm a huge fan of slowing things down and approaching life at a leisurely pace. There's no reason to run when you can walk and look around. Even so, there's a difference between taking your time... and wasting someone else's life as a result of it. For example, slow people in lunch lines. If you're slow, you shouldn't be allowed to eat. Usually, it takes me less than 15 seconds to make a chicken sandwich because of the awesome, world-class, super-important-life-skills that I learned at McDonalds several years ago. This time, however, a barricade was in front of me. It was... a Slow Person. I watched as the minute hand ticked by as she slowly lifted a piece of turkey onto her bread and slowly arranged it to her liking. Then she slowly drifted to the bowl of tomatoes and sifted through the pile to individually select each slice (four in total) and organize it on her plate. This agonizing process was repeated for lettuce, cheese, and pickles, and took a total of four minutes.

Was that really necessary for her to do? No. Was it necessary for me to even tell you that story? No. And speaking of unnecessary items, I've stopped putting antonyms for everything because well, it's just not necessary. From now on, they'll only be in places that deserve them. Thanks to all the readers who gave me feedback on it!

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Submarine 707R Limited Edition
Geneon Entertainment100 min. 1/1 $29.98 11/09/2004
Submarine 707R
Geneon Entertainment100 min. 1/1 $19.98 11/09/2004

Submarine 707R has a very upsetting ending. Not because something sad or tragic happens, mind you, but because it ends. When I first picked up the disc, I was expecting to be bored out of my skull, but by the time the end credits rolled, I was online in agony, trying vainly to find any evidence that more episodes were being made. Nothing. The two-episode OVA tells the valiant story of a crew aboard the 707. The seas are awash in blood from the continual attacks by the naval terrorist group, the USR. Several countries have joined forces to form the Peace Keeping Navy, but the even the world's hardiest ships are no match for the superior AI systems of the USR and the unbeatable strategies of UX, their strongest submarine. The only vessel that can stop the threat is Submarine 707, the ultimate underdog that makes up what it lacks in technology with dedicated crew members. Led by Captain Hayami, the crew finds itself head to head with an entire USR fleet headed by the UX. What follows is a stretch of thrilling underwater battles and a clash of wits between the two head captains. Alas, the OVA leaves many questions unanswered. Part of the excitement in watching the second episode is wondering if it will resolve the handful of conspiracies and problems that are introduced in the first episode—but it never does. It's truly disappointing that more episodes weren't made because even though the OVA ends on an uplifting and heroic beat, there are so many issues left untackled that it feels incomplete. It really puts a damper on the viewing experience, but even so, what was made is definitely worth watching.

Submarine 707R (sŭb'-mə-rēn sĕv'-ən ō sĕv'-ən är) n - A submarine whose exploits would deserve a place in Crimson Tide: The Animated Movie if it weren't so agonizingly incomplete.
Syn: Check out Blue Submarine No. 6, whose manga was written by the same guy who did Submarine 707R. Or, enjoy the same heroic battles—in space! with shows like Starblazers and Captain Herlock.

Saikano Vol. #4 - Love Song
Viz, LLC. 72 min. 4 $29.99 11/09/2004

Every time I watch the last episode of Saikano, I feel like I'll never be happy ever again. The world could end, and I wouldn't notice because I'd be too busy feeling the after effects of the most painful show in recent anime history. Things are looking up for awhile when Chise and Shuuji steal away to a quiet town to start their lives afresh. Unfortunately, happiness isn't allowed to make more than a cameo appearance in Saikano, so before long, Chise's pills run out, leaving her body destabilized and deteriorating. The only way she can continue to live is if she continues to fight as the Ultimate Weapon. With the rest of the enemy's forces bent on destroying her, she and Shuuji try anything they can to stay together and live as a normal couple. When the ending to the series does come... well, just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby. Even after seeing the ending at least three times, I was still bawling like a little girl with a skinned knee. What transpires is more than a little vague, and it's definitely up for individual interpretation, but no matter what conclusion you arrive at, the emotional outcome is the same—severe, severe melancholy. Saikano portrays the bittersweetness of love so vividly that it's not the war scenes that tear at the heartstrings, but the relationships that are made and broken that give it so much emotional firepower. If you've held off on watching Saikano for whatever reason, now's the time to give it a go. This series is a must-see.

Saikano (sī'-kŏn-ō) - A painful and heart-wrenching trip through the hell of love and depression; a destroyer of happiness.
Syn: War and peace, love and pain? Try Voices of a Distant Star and also Now and Then, Here and There.

Fruits Basket Box Set
FUNimation Productions 490 min. 1/1 $99.98 11/09/2004

Without hesitation, I can say that Fruits Basket is one of the best series to be released in the past few years. Combining innocence, trust, and just the right amount of comedy, it's a sweet show that will jerk you through more emotions than a season of the Real World. The story follows a good-natured girl named Tohru Honda who was orphaned after her mother died in a car accident. After a string of circumstances and a brief stint of living in the woods, she gets invited to stay with a few members of the Sohma household. She soon learns the family's biggest secret—they turn into the animals of the Chinese zodiac if they're embraced by a member of the opposite sex (which makes you wonder how they procreate with those outside of the family... ). One by one, the different family members are introduced so Tohru can utter long soliloquies about Love, Trust, and Friendship, all while cementing her relationship with the boys she's living with. While the show gets a bit repetitive after awhile, it's a very touching show if consumed in the right amounts. The characters are a joy to watch, and it's far too easy to become enveloped in their lives. This belongs on anyone's shelf.

Fruits Basket (früts băs'-kĭt) n - An endearing show that gets away with having a central plot point of people turning into zodiac animals every time they're embraced by people of the opposite sex, all while taking it seriously enough that people don't remember what a silly idea it is.
Syn: There's nothing quite like Furuba out there, but be sure to check out Akitaroh Daichi's oft-overlooked OVA, Grrl Power. If a maelstrom of pretty boys is what you're after, try Fushigi Yuugi.

Spiral Vol. #1 - The Melody of Logic + Artbox
FUNimation Productions 125 min. 1/8 $34.98 11/09/2004
Spiral Vol. #1 - The Melody of Logic
FUNimation Productions 125 min. 1/8 $24.98 11/09/2004

I can't help but be fascinated by Spiral. The series starts out a bit weak, but I'm so curious what's going to happen that I can't stop watching. The instance the show opens, the audience is clued in on one thing. There's something mysterious about the Blade Children, but no one really knows who, or what, they are. Enter Ayumu, a bright but slightly troubled boy whose older brother vanished in pursuit of the truth behind the Blade Children. Soon, Ayumu is dragged into the web too, when he's accused of pushing a girl from a floor of his school stairwell. From there on, murders keep popping up which all link back to the first girl. Along with his sister-in-law detective and a perky girl from his class, Ayumu tries to unravel the secret behind the Blade Children, all while cracking a few murder cases along the way. In a way, the first few episodes almost feel like Detective Conan, except without any little kids. Something sinister happens, and Ayumu comes along to solve the crime with his astute problem-solving skills. (Granted, sometimes the answers are complete BS, like the scientifically incorrect crime involving dry ice.) This gets a little annoying after a while, but there're two things that keep me glued to the screen. The first is Eyes, a quiet pianist (and presumably a Blade Child) who is cool only because his piece of choice is “Jeux D'eau” by Ravel. The second is the Blade Children. I desperately want to know what they are, and it's this bait that's had me on the edge of my seat for every episode. With murder plots and mind games galore, it made the episodes zip by, but I can't help but be disappointed that viewers are jerked along for so many episodes without any more information than they started out with. It's slightly frustrating, but this series shows a lot of promise. The first five episodes are a little slow, but I have faith that it will pick up. This is definitely a show to keep your eye on. For now though, just give it a rental to keep up to speed.

Spiral (spī'-rəl) n - A circular storyline about a talented boy and mysterious Blade Children that leads viewers around and around a piece of bait in a spiral pattern, much like a dog chasing its tail.
Syn: Detective Conan (Case Closed), also released by FUNimation, is always good for some mystery-solving action.

Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. #3 - Destiny + Figures
Geneon Entertainment100 min. 3/3 $39.98 11/09/2004
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Vol. #3 - Destiny
Geneon Entertainment100 min. 3/3 $29.98 11/09/2004

Somewhere between Ai Yori Aoshi and Ai Yori Aoshi ~ Enishi, a hole was punctured in the series that let all the romance drain out of it. It used to be that the highlight of the series was the scenes when Kaoru and Aoi could be alone together. It was then that viewers would be treated to innocent romance and true love. Sadly, in the first episode when the couple gets the chance to go out on a date (and spend the night with each other!), all of the romance is replaced with badly scripted dialogue and meaningless background pans. Every time the scene got better, it would be followed by an observation of, “I want to let Aoi eat a lot of delicious foods!” which, while well-meaning, is incredibly dull to watch. Surprisingly, the real highlight in the last volume is Tina. Revealing a lonely side to her that is usually suppressed, through the course of a requisite bath episode and the last few episodes, Tina finally reinforces herself as more than just an annoying side character with big breasts. While most of the last disc is still just crazy hijinks and character-driven fun, it wraps up the series nicely with some closure between the characters as they all realize how much they mean to each other. The finale of Ai Yori Aoshi ~ Enishi isn't nearly as solid or sincere as the first series, but it does a good job of wrapping things up. Might as well give this a rental for the sake of completing the series.

Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi (ī yō'-rē ä'-ō-shē) n - The continuation of an emotionally confused show that flops between sweet romance and harem styled clichés at the grope of a breast.
Syn: When it comes to harems, don't forget to check out Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina, Angel Tales, and eventually Girls Bravo. If you want a heavier dose of romance, try waiting for Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien or Kanon.
Ant: Don't confuse harem anime with “it's okay to touch you because you're my brother!” incest anime, which has males surrounded by potential lovers claiming to be sisters, and sisters claiming to be potential lovers, like Sister Princess and Please Twins.

Fancy Lala - Complete Collection
Bandai 650 min. 1-6/6 $49.98 11/09/2004

Ah, shoujo, how I will never get sick of you. One of the first in the Transforming-Girls-That-Sing genre, Fancy Lala stars a cute tyke that loves to draw. She bumps into two talking stuffed animals that give her a magical pen with the ability to turn her into a 16-year old, and let her wear any clothes that she draws. Using her newfound abilities, she becomes a model/actress/singer/every girl's dream and has the time of her life. Problem is, she has to keep her double identity a secret. For the rest of the series, she must learn to deal with her dual identity, as well as the ups and downs that come with such a lifestyle. The show's not particularly mentally engaging, but it exemplifies the cute side of shoujo magnificently. Bandai released this series several years ago, so it's odd that they're finally releasing it as a boxset now. If you're curious though, give the previously released individual discs a quick peek. It's nothing stellar, but if you like talking mascots, magical stuff, and transforming girls, this will be a fun stroll into shoujo land.

Fancy Lala (făn'-sē lä'-lä) - A show about little girls skipping years of growing up and jumping into the world of teen angst by waving around a magic pen.
Syn: If you like this, then you will adore Full Moon wo Sagashite if it ever gets licensed. Same concept, but laced with sadness and romance.

Gungrave Vol. #3 - Undead War
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. 3/? $29.98 11/09/2004

Whatever gave people the idea that zombies were exciting? All they do is lumber toward you, make guttural sounds, and continue being dead. The fact that the zombies in Gungrave have guns only makes them slightly more exciting. After two sluggish volumes, disc three provides viewers with three entertaining episodes before dropping off into Boringshire again. Blood War, a ruthless killer with a horrible beard, has been released from prison after eight years. He joins up with Canon Vulcan as part of Lighting, the lame mafia that wants to destroy Millenion, the cool mafia. Their secret weapons are necrolyzers, dead people who have been brought back to life by drinking something that looks like laundry detergent. Supposedly, necrolyzed things can mutate into bizarre creatures, like dogs with spines growing out of them and giant monsters, but for whatever reason, all the dead people that are necrolyzed for the Lightning army just turned into zombies. It's up to Brandon, Harry, and Bunji to stop the unstoppable undead. Just as the fighting gets exciting, a horribly contrived plot twist comes in to destroy any chance of letting the excitement continue. This apparently happens a lot in Gungrave. As soon as something really fascinating builds up, they go and wreck it with some unexplainable plot point or some contradictory piece of information that they quickly gloss over. Brandon is bad-ass enough to warrant a rental of this disc, but aside from that, there's not much else here that rises above mediocre.

Gungrave (gŭn grāv) n - A show which exists for the sole purpose of shooting things repeatedly with guns and thus sending them to their graves—unless they're zombies, in which case you wait for lame plot twists to make them go away.
Syn: Hit up Trigun for some more guns and graves by Nightow, who also created Gungrave. If it's mafia you want, try Noir, Outlaw Star, or Crying Freeman (disclaimer: Crying Freeman sucks).

Maison Plaisir
Anime 18 60 min. 1/1 $29.98 11/09/2004

I've been watching too many parody anime to be enthusiastic about a parody hentai. Haha, you're like Maison Ikkoku except with bondage. Haha, very funny. Now get that poop out of your mouth. Allow me to give you a brief rundown. There's a guy who trained his stepmom in bondage. His dad found that sick, and rightfully so, and cast him out of the house to go live in this Maison Ikkoku lookalike house. But OH, OH, guess what? The landlord is a chick who's INTO BONDAGE TOO!!! Lucky!! However, she's still upset over the death of her husband, so our kind hero helps her get over him until she can dangle from a tree and piss on a picture of her dead hubby. Even more quaint is when the stepmom comes back begging for more bondage, except this time she's got her daughter in tow. Incest ensues, followed by more playing with poop. The fact that I no longer wince when I see characters playing with their own feces is a sign of how much my soul has died since I started watching hentai. Honestly, this is like every other hentai out there except it doesn't even try to have a story. It just has bondage. Lots of bondage. If you like bondage and big tits, and you love the idea of playing with POOP, you'll be rolling around in this filth like a happy pig. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and go find something a bit more high-qual to get your jollies with.
Maison Plaisir (mā'-sŏn plā'-sēr) - A house of bondage where women go to have sick little fun with their daughters. See also: public outhouse.
Syn: Bondage Mansion. Except that actually had a bit of a plot. Doh.
Ant: Maison Ikkoku—a cheerful (but oftentimes annoying) story originally penned by Rumiko Takahashi that tells a sweet tale of romance between a tenant and his landlord without any of the ropes and diarrhea.

And that's it! Thanks for reading!

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