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Shelf Life
And a Happy New Year...

by Bamboo Dong,
Generally, I'm concerned when airline staff asks me four times if I know that I am seated in an exit row, and tells me five times how to operate it. Once is enough. Twice is plenty. Three times is overkill. Are they really that unsure of their planes that they have to tell me on nine separate occasions about the exit row? Unless the plane lands in a body of water, what good will the exits even do? If the plane is falling from the sky, the exit doors can do nothing, aside from provide a place to throw people out and hope that they cushion your landing. One can only wait until the plane crashes and burns, and hope that people have enough limbs and consciousness to crawl to the exit doors that aren't doused in flames. Maybe they should turn the bottom seat cushions into parachutes instead of just flotation devices. Maybe then the exit rows would be more useful.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Kiddy Grade Vol. #8 - Emerging Anew
FUNimation Productions 75 min. 8/8 $24.98 11/30/2004

There is something truly splendid about the last volume of Kiddy Grade. Maybe it's the comfortable, cantering pace it takes as it rolls out the events one after another. Maybe it's the revelations that are exposed, only to be upstaged by another one a few minutes later. Whatever it may be, the last few episodes are some of the best in the series. There are a few moments when one raises an eyebrow and thinks, “Did they seriously just try to pull off that super-contrived plot twist?” but with the amount of heart that was poured into the episodes, it's easy to forgive the series for the silly sensationalism it throws in near the end. Chevalier d'Autriche, secretary of GOTT, has brought out Deucalion, a huge intergalactic spaceship capable of wiping out civilizations everywhere. As he unveils the original plan behind the behemoth, other more shocking secrets are revealed... like his deep ties with Éclair. When Alv is absorbed into the spaceship and takes command of its deadly arsenal of lasers, the situation changes suddenly into an all-out battle for human existence, with all of GOTT leading the way. In terms of series finales, this one was pretty awesome. Watch it.

Kiddy Grade (kǐd'ē grād) n: An exciting intergalactic adventure starring girls with powers who look underaged, but can be lusted after with the excuse that they're actually much older and never age.
Syn: Dirty Pair and Dirty Pair Flash are the way to go for some chick-duo action.

Kaleido Star Vol. #6 - Reach for the Brass Ring!
ADV Films 100 min. 6/? $29.98 12/07/2004

To say the sixth volume of Kaleido Star is anything less than gripping would be a colossal and grievous lie. Fascinating, elegant, touching—all of these words could describe this disc and still leave room for more compliments. When the Spirit of the Stage approaches Sora and Layla, he tells them they have been chosen to challenge the Legendary Great Maneuver. The catch is, they can't learn what the Maneuver is until they've been qualified by the Spirit. To add stress to the mix, Yuri has already made an announcement of their attempt at the Maneuver and has already sold out tickets to a show in one month. Ready for a month of grueling training, the duo and their friends head down to the Grand Canyon to train under the unrelenting watch of Karos. Bombarded with confidence problems and injuries, Sora and Layla must overcome the impossible in order to come out victorious—and alive. From the internal changes that both characters have made, to the actual Legendary Great Maneuver, this volume is captivating on so many levels. Kaleido Star fans, put this on the top of your list.

Kaleido Star (kə-lī'dō star) n - A star that is able to rise up from the darkness and shine in a kaleidoscope array of colors and accomplish the impossible just on blind faith and determination.
Syn: None. I racked my brains for anything that this show resembles, but Kaleido Star is really just one of a kind.

Aquarian Age Vol. #3 - Destiny
ADV Films 100 min. 3/3 $29.98 12/07/2004

Aquarian Age has had its ups and downs with me, and the last volume was no exception. There were times when I thought that I was watching something truly exciting, only to be followed by feelings of disappointment a few minutes later. Final conflicts start unfurling when the dark side of Yokko is fully unleashed with the help of Abuto. This sends Kyouta into an even greater depression, making him struggle to regain his musical touch and his Mindbreaker spirit. As he and his comrades fight to save Yokko, he finally realizes just how many people the ancient war touches. While the volume was fun enough to watch, it was a bit of a letdown in terms of grand finales. In the end, viewers realize that only a small battle in the ancient war has been won, and there's much more to the story that will never be shown. The series could have easily stretched on further, but for what it is, it's fairly entertaining. It's a shame that the different players in the ancient war weren't developed more, since they all seem to have important roles that are never really expanded on. The main source of frustration though, was Kyouta. Even when his friends' lives were in peril, he waffled on the sidelines, shaking in his shoes and excelling at his function as the Pacifist Coward. These bouts of wussiness dragged down the pace of the ending, and it's not until the last episode that things really kick into gear and go somewhere. This series may have its lulls, but it's still worth seeing at least once.

Aquarian Age (ə-kwâr'ē-ən āj) n - An era when the pop industry will collide with children possessing ancient powers, replete with the same freaky glowing butterflies you see in every creepy anime scene.
Syn: If you liked Aquarian Age, you will very much love the X TV series, a dark series about two groups of chosen individuals as they battle for the fate of the planet.
Ant: Aquarian Age may be about reliving an ancient war, but don't confuse it with Ikki Tousen, a Breast Fest™ about recreating history.

Peacemaker Vol. #2 - Of Swords & Strength
ADV Films 100 min. 2/7 $29.98 12/07/2004

Ah, yet another show where men look like women and women look like men. After the events in the first volume, things die down a bit in terms of Tetsu and his role in the Shinsengumi. Sent on errand after errand, he spends much of the volume learning that owning a sword is less important than the Heart He Has Inside™. What does make this disc more interesting, though, is the growing tension between the Choshu rebels in town, and the Shinsengumi. The spies working for both sides have already begun fighting, and it's only a matter of time before things escalate further. It's still a little unclear who exactly is working for whom, but hopefully things will be cleared up soon. In terms of action and bloodlust, this volume isn't as exciting as the first, but the story is progressing at a nice, relaxed pace and viewers are getting plenty of downtime to watch the group go about their everyday lives. Overall, it's not one of the more significant set of episodes to date, but it does a good job of setting up future conflicts. If you're looking for a good way to kill some time this holiday season, give this disc a shot.

Peacemaker (pēs'mā-kər) n - A person who makes peace by using bloodshed and brute force to show that his views are better than yours.
Syn: For some more samurai action, try Rurouni Kenshin or Tsukikage Ran, the chick version of Kenshin.

Stellvia Vol. #2 - Foundation II
Geneon Entertainment 75 min. 2/8 $24.98 12/07/2004

Within the space of three episodes, I went from sullenly disliking Stellvia, to being disappointed that the disc was over—all because of Shipon. At first, watching the show was misery because I couldn't stand her scaredy-cat nature and her weak disposition. But, true to all coming-of-age stories, she came of age with a bang. It's that time of the year again on the foundations—time for all five of the schools to get together for the Athletic Festival. There's a variety of competitions, but the main event is Astroball. Hoping to make the prepatory students work harder, the Big Four has decided that whomever can pass a qualifying flying test will be the fifth Astroball team member for the Stellvia. Finally abandoning her panicky nature and believing in her own flying skills, Shipon emerges as the clear winner. Within weeks, she shoots to the top of the class, blowing everyone away with her determination and newfound confidence, and putting a chipper shine on a previously dull series. Just watching her make such a drastic change is worth 75 minutes out of your life. And, with the emergence of new rivals, things should stay interesting for quite some time! Give it a rental and keep track of this series.

Stellvia (stĕl'vē-ŭ) n - A sweet story of how a girl goes from aggravating wimp to superstar by playing interspatial Quidditch.
Syn: Watch Battle Athletes Victory for more coming-of-age stories set on training camps.

Fushigi Yugi - The Mysterious Play Vol. #3
Geneon Entertainment 175 min. 3/? $24.98 11/30/2004

Fushigi Yuugi was one of my first favorite shows, and I'm overjoyed that Geneon is releasing the discs individually. Why? Just so people can rent it. Boxsets are always a steep investment for people who haven't seen the show, so individual discs are a godsend for the denizens who aren't bathing in gold coins. With seven episodes on a disc, this just amounts to one great deal. The adventures of our spunky heroine continue in volume three, as she rifles through Konan searching for the last of the seven seishi. Hoping that her completion of this task will bring Tamahome back to her, Miaka goes through ordeal upon angsty-Yuu-Watase ordeal just for the chance to add more beautiful men to her collection. Meanwhile, her drama queen friend is off molesting Tamahome, to the disappointed cries of fangirls everywhere. To be frank, Fushigi Yuugi is nothing that spectacular. The animation is junk and the music is half-junk, but the strong characters and riveting storylines that characterize Watase series such as this one make it a hard series to put down. If any of you shoujo fans out there haven't been exposed to this show yet, do yourself a favor and dive into this engaging tale. It may not be a masterpiece, but there's something about it that keeps you in your seat.

Fushigi Yuugi (fü-shē'gē yü'gē) n - A "Mysterious Play" starring a whiny little girl on her quest to uncover all seven Suzaku seishi, just so she can go back home with her best friend who hates her and wishes her dead.
Syn: Traveling in ancient Asian lands calls for Twelve Kingdoms, but if it's one girl saving the world with a harem of men, your best bet is Prétear.

Popotan Vol. #1 - Vanishing House
Geneon Entertainment 100 min. $24.98 12/07/2004

Popotan ranks in the Top 5 Worst Anime Shows Ever. Twice. With the exception of the moments I was drowned in the numbingly cute opening and ending themes, about every five minutes or so I contemplated taking out the DVD and throwing it out the window. Luckily, I reminded myself that littering is bad, and even the concrete didn't deserve the misery that had infiltrated the darkest reaches of my poisoned soul. If the front cover isn't enough indication, Popotan is about naked women, breasts, dandelions, and magical powers. The story may be vague enough (read: nonexistent), but the real damnation comes in the characters. Ai is a big-chested woman who (I paused the disc and took out a ruler to make sure) has tits the size of her head. She has two little sisters, one of whom loves flashing breasts as much as her big sister, and the other one is a prepubescent loli who not only has a predilection for clinging on to breasts and cow udders and anything else “puffy,” but also shows her underaged nipples every vile episode. Then there's the maid, a quiet woman who was innocent enough until her clothes were blasted off by the end of the disc. These four women spend their time talking to dandelions and moving from place to place for some unexplained reason. When they're not busy moving, they're providing sickening gobs of fanservice, along with their hideous rat-like ferret who delights in squirming around in Ai's bosoms. If you value your sanity at all, stay away from this show. There's no story, the character designs are blasé, and the fanservice is unappealing and sickening. You've been warned.

Popotan (pō'pō-tän) n - A show based off an H-game, sent to defile fandom by being a confused amalgamation of everything wretched in the world of anime fan pandering. Ex: “That show is such a Popotan!”
Syn: If all you want is monster boobies, check out ADV's upcoming release of Divergence Eve, where Torpedo Tits rule outer space.
Ant: It's possible to have girls with magic without them strutting around naked, like the happy-go-lucky Magic User's Club!, or the laid-back and quiet Someday's Dreamers.

That's it for now. Hope everyone is having a nice holiday season!

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