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Shelf Life
All I Want For Christmas

by Bamboo Dong,
In between midterms and finals (Midterms at the end of a year? Preposterous!), I've done my best to squeeze out a Shelf Life just for you, my beloved readers. However, I vote that we abolish all forms of academic tests in the United States, except for entrance exams. Thank you.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Azumanga Daioh Vol. #6 - Graduation!
ADV Films 75 min. 6/6 $29.98 11/23/2003

Up until now, I've said that Azumanga Daioh was somewhat of an acquired taste, but with the last volume, I can easily say that this disc is something that carries almost universal appeal. Disc six is, in my mind, the best volume in the series. You'll laugh, you'll smile, and if you're a wussy like me, you'll even cry. The first episode on the disc lauded a warm place in my heart, placing Sakaki in the spotlight and adding an Iriomote kitten permanently into her life. Though that was enjoyable for me, the real magic comes from the last two episodes. Taking on a slightly more serious tone, they still contain a few of the comedic chunks that defined the series, but focus on the girls as they go through the ordeals of entrance exams and college acceptances, and the sadness of leaving high school. Backing down as a quirky comedy, these episodes really shine through as a story of high school friendship and the nostalgia associated with it. Just watching the last episode is enough to make any high school graduate flashback to their commencement day. If you only watch one volume of Azumanga Daioh your entire life, make it this one. It took me a long time to warm up to this show, but this last volume made it worth it.

Azumanga Daioh (ä'zü-män'gă dī'ō) n - A show about a group of girls as they make their way through high school amidst a barrage of gag jokes, eventually arriving at a warmhearted ending.
Syn: For more quirky school fun, check out Cromartie High School, soon to be released by ADV.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #3: Special Edition
Manga Entertainment 120 min. 3/? $49.98 11/23/2004
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #3
Manga Entertainment 120 min. 3/? $29.98 11/23/2004

Every time a new volume of this show is released, I lunge for it and hope that it contains more Complex episodes. Continuing the Laughing Man storyline that's been building up, it's been fascinating to see the millions of puzzle pieces slowly align themselves, as the blur between reality and fantasy gets increasingly stronger. Luckily, a couple of the episodes on this disc are indeed devoted to the Laughing Man, as Section 9 heightens their search for him. From the beginning of the Complex arc, the infiltration of the Laughing Man into pop culture has been interesting to track, ranging from admirers to copycats, to children with the logo slathered on their clothing. As Major Kusanagi and her crew run around chat rooms filtering out the imposters from the real thing, a chance encounter provides a clue, but will it only lead to a dead end? Of course, if continuing storylines aren't your thing, there's plenty of standalone fun and plenty of serial killers on the loose for viewers who like to keep their blood pumping. Whether you're a huge fan of the slower-paced Complex episodes, or the faster clip of the other ones (or even just the ultra cute Tachikoma specials!), you'd be well advised to keep up to date with this series.

Stand Alone Complex (stănd ə'lōn cǒm'plĕks) n - An exciting new plunge into Shirow's world without the mind-numbing pretension of Oshii and his obsession with bassets.
Syn: Go back a few years and watch Armitage: Dual-Matrix and Armitage III for some more cybernetic action.

Please Twins Vol. #1 - Three's Company + Artbox + Album
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $49.98 11/23/2004
Please Twins Vol. #1 - Three's Company
Bandai Entertainment 100 min. 1/? $29.98 11/23/2004

Allow me to introduce you to my biggest guilty pleasure of the year—Please Twins. I know there's something wrong about potential sisters that fall in love with their maybe brothers, but the artwork is so candy sweet, and the storyline is so pitifully engrossing that I can't help myself. An unrelated spin-off from the Please Teacher! series, the show stars a high schooler named Maiku who's been orphaned since youth. The only link he has to his family is a photo of him and his sister playing in a pool in front of the house he now lives in. Hoping to someday meet his long-lost sister, his dream is more than fulfilled when two girls show up on his doorstep, both claiming to be his sister. Even stranger, both of them have the same childhood photo. Staying true to shounen romance, they both decide to move in with him until they decide which one of them is his real sibling, and which one of them needs to bail. If it seems like a silly plot, it's because it is. At the same time, it's hard to stop watching because deep down, you're curious who his sister really is. Like the fascination that cars on the highway have with accidents, you can't help but gawk at the scenarios transpiring in this show. The seeds of an incestuous show developing? It's a slow motion wreck, and we all want to stop and stare. Give this a rental. If anything, you can stare at the crisp and pretty artwork.

Please Twins (plēz twǐnz) n - A game of romantic roulette where the one you end up kissing may be your brother. Don't try this at home.
Syn: For sugary character designs and a bucket full of shounen romance, try the parent series, Please Teacher!. Like train wrecks? Give Sister Princess a whirl.

Case Closed Season 03 Vol. #03: Like Old Times
FUNimation Productions 62 min. 3/? $19.98 11/23/2004

Case Closed is the kind of show that you put off watching for a while, but once you put it in the DVD player, you can't do anything else until the production credits have rolled. This volume jumps right into the fun when Conan gets an invitation to go on a Mystery Tour with several fellow Conan Doyle-philes. Instead of the fun weekend that was planned though, things take a sour turn when the tour's director/owner is murdered. Things only get worse when another homicide and an assault follow closely afterwards. It's up to this gathering of Sherlock Holmes fans to crack the case before the killer wipes out the entire party. As with most Conan episodes, virtually every single one is unique and fresh in some way, and these three are no exception. Half the fun is in seeing if you can crack a case before the characters can. If you're looking for a nice way to relax your mind this weekend, pick up Case Closed.

Case Closed (kās klōzd) n - A phrase uttered by detectives at the end of a hard day's work, only to run home and cry themselves to sleep knowing that they're stuck in a shrimpy kid's body, thus ruining any possible chances of hooking up with women.
Syn: Someone needs to make Nancy Drew – The Anime. Until then, watch Spiral for more X-treme mystery solving action.

Mobile Suit Gundam F91
Bandai Entertainment 118 min. 1/1 $29.98 11/23/2004

Super hardcore Gundam fans, I know you've already picked this up. It has mobile suits, Gundams (actually, one, and it's only called a Gundam because it kind of looks like one), political bickering, and awesome airborne fights—why wouldn't you watch it? Well... maybe because it's boring as sin. The entire movie takes place in 118 minutes. However, it doesn't begin to get interesting until 70 minutes in. Up until that point, everything is a jumbled mess of mobile suits whose political affiliations are unclear. Viewers are thrown into the middle of an uprising of some sort where two sides are shooting each other up in a space colony. It isn't until later that we find out that one of the sides is a rogue colony renamed Cosmo Babylon with the agenda of merging the other colonies under the rule of their royal family. Plot twist: the female heir to the throne is a childhood friend of the movie hero, who unsurprisingly becomes the pilot of the Gundam F91. To cut down on the amount of screen time it would take to train him in the art of piloting a mobile suit, it's revealed that he's a Newtype. Once the main characters start fighting though, the excitement finally kicks in. By then, all the unclear parts of the game have been explained, and viewers can sit back and watch things go boom. Compared to some of the other Gundam franchises out there, this doesn't rank in the top half, but if you're hungry for some robot action, check this out for a quick snack.

Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (mō'bəl süt gŭn'dŭm ĕf nīn'tē-wŭn) n - A movie hoping to make a quick buck by slapping on the Gundam name, using leftover paint left in the animation studio.
Syn: Check out some of the more politically-oriented Gundam series like Gundam 0079, 08th MS Team, Gundam Wing, and Gundam Seed (i.e. just about anything but G-Gundam). Or, check out Last Exile for some more political intrigue.

Maison Ikkoku Box Set 4
Viz 300 min. 4/5 $49.98 11/23/2004

If you've seen the first few box sets of Maison Ikkoku, you can pretty much stop watching. With the exception of a few high points in the series every few episodes or so, it's the same thing over and over again. Boy does something nice for girl, girl warms up to boy, boy accidentally does something and there's a huge misunderstanding, the audience groans, and it all starts over again. There's a cute moment here when Kozue lays things on the line and asks Godai to confess his feelings, but as all shows of this nature must go, nothing really comes out of it. In fact, she even pulls the 180º Anime Bitch Factor and goes out of her way to make him jealous. Smooth. In the end, this is one of Takahashi's cuter works, so if you're curious to see how this dead-end show paves through, give this a quick peek.

Maison Ikkoku (mā'zôn ē'kō-kü) n - A lively house filled with an eclectic mix of people, conveniently developed so that all of them fill archetypal roles on command.
Syn: If I See You in My Dreams (*not recommended*) follows another man on his fruitless quest to snag a lady in his humdrum life.

Gregory Horror Show Vol. #2 – The Guest From Hell
Geneon 73 min. 2/3 $24.98 11/23/2004

The first volume was somewhat of an oddity in the anime world. Blocky CG-animated characters that looked like a student project, but were fun and creepy? That was worth seeing at least once—and only once. There was absolutely no reason to make a second volume. Carrying all of the same problems that made the first disc so torturous to watch after the first two episodes, this DVD follows the same format as well, except This Time the guest is a woman. Composed of 25 short vignettes, this volume follows a woman trapped in a terrifying hotel. There, she's confronted with blood-thirsty nurses, murderous chefs, her own fears and memories, and of course the proprietor, an evil rat named Gregory. The problem is, none of the stories are actually scary. If the episodes were lengthened and the characters developed, perhaps the atmosphere of the series would strike more fear into the hearts of viewers, but as it stands, it's very choppy, all too manic, and doesn't have anything to keep the attention of wandering minds. Plus, if you've seen volume one in its entirety, you know how it ended... and allow me to spoil you by saying that volume two ends in a similar fashion. If you've seen the first one, don't even bother wasting your time on this.

Gregory Horror Show (grĕg'ûr-ē hôr'ôr shō) n - A pseudo-horror series starring animals and living inanimate objects that, upon failure of forming a cohesive series with a solid story, exist solely to sell PS2 and CCG games based off their meaningless lives.
Syn: If you're looking for something that will chill you to the core, check out some of the best in horror anime, like Paranoia Agent, Perfect Blue, and Boogiepop Phantom. For more gaudy CG and slightly disturbing, but wholly pointless scenes, check out the Adult title, Malice@Doll.

Thanks for reading; I'll see you next time!

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