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Shelf Life
Master Ninja Theme Song

by Bamboo Dong,
For as long as stories have been told, there have been debates over the superiority of one occupation of fictional characters over others. Ninjas versus pirates, samurai versus cowboys... Let's see if we can't get things sorted out, shall we? The order goes likes this: Ninjas, samurai, pirates, cowboys, and finally, zombies. Before we get started, I'd like to reiterate once again that these only encompass fictional characters. I'm sure real life people with similar occupations don't fit any of these stereotypes, but let's restrain ourselves to just the archetypes which dominate fantasyland. Ninjas are the ultimate in cool because short of dismantling an atom bomb (because ninjas are too savvy for U2), they can do anything. They can jump multi-story buildings, dash across rooftops, instantaneously replace their bodies with bits of wood, and even transform into other people! Whatever needs to be done, there is a secret ninja skill for it. Samurai, on the other hand, have honor and a mean fighting edge. This gives them immense laurels, but alas, they aren't as inventive as ninjas, which is why they're not as cool as them. After this, it's all downhill. Pirates scowl at each other and occasionally shake their matted broom-heads at each other. Not only do they have missing body parts, but sometimes scurvy, which could be avoided by the citrus and pineapples they always show in the galleys. Then there're cowboys. Mind you, I grew up in a state where cowboys started it all, but past the John Wayne days, cowboys have been nothing but bowlegged sissies. Once they were the king of the west, but now they can only ride horses and shoot whiskey bottles. At the bottom of the cool chain though, are zombies. Honestly, what can zombies do? They scuffle around and wave their arms and gnaw at things. They don't even get to control what they do, and they look silly. Moaning incoherently is so dreadfully ineloquent. So there you have it...the hierarchy of characters. Feel free to debunk me if you wish.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum Edition Vol. #4
ADV Films 75 min. 4/7 $29.98 12/28/2004

Up until this volume, Evangelion has been relatively straightforward. See an Angel, kill it. See another one, kill that one too. Volume four is when it starts getting screwy. From here on out, this series makes less and less sense, until you're left with a feeling of bewilderment and euphoria. After cornering Kaji about his moonlighting, Misato is exposed to one of NERV's biggest secrets—a humungous Angel crucified in the basement of the complex and oozing LCL fluid. What exactly it is and what it's doing there, no one is really sure of, but suddenly, questions about the real identities of the Eva units and NERV's motives are thrown into the light. Meanwhile, the Angels keep attacking Tokyo-3, but soon the three kids will have a helping hand, with the introduction of a fourth pilot. Without a doubt, this disc is one of the pivoting points of the series. The episodes have been dancing around with symbolism until now, but this volume marks their entry into the full fray. Spitting out questions and plot twists left and right, this will have you begging to see the rest of the series. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if this isn't in your collection, it should be.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (nē'ŏn jĕn'ǐ-sǐs ā'vôn-gĕ-lē-ŏn)n: The start of a new era in mankind, when giant robots are overshadowed by a surplus of religious symbolism sent from space to smack viewers upside the head.
Syn:There are few series like Eva in terms of over-the-top imagery, but for similar mind-bending big robot shows, Gasaraki is always good for a hit.
Ant: Another show that's full of symbols is Kekko Kamen, but instead of revolving around the monotheistic religions, it's chock full of Nazi and demonic symbols. Also, it sucks.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Platinum Edition Vol. #5
ADV Films 75 min. 5/7 $29.98 02/08/2005

Honestly, it's all downwards on the sanity hill from volume four. Whether or not it was intentional, no one will ever know, but the level of depth and complexity that springs forth from these episodes is enough to justify spending the time watching this series. The next Angel picks a rather inopportune time to strike, setting its sights on the test run of the fourth Eva. Shinji is given orders to destroy it, but a surprise awaits him when he refuses to comply. Raising questions of what the Evas actually are, it provides a defining moment for the series, marking the rift between humans thinking they're controlling the machines and their fate, and knowing that mankind is helpless against a higher level of life. With a bone-chilling episode riding fast on its heels, there's something to be said for the feeling that viewers get the first time they ever see the infamous “Eating” episode. If ever this series was able to grip viewers' attention spans in a vise, it's now. At this point, there's no turning back. You'd best stick this on your shelf for good.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (ā'vŭ) n: A show about humans controlling big giant robots that are actually controlling themselves, and are fighting big giant things that are controlling themselves, but are actually being controlled by a higher power, which is controlling itself, but is being manipulated by humans, which are controlled by time and destiny.
Syn: A blur between reality and the mind? Be sure you give Rahxephon a shot.

R.O.D. the TV Vol. #4 - The Turning Point
Geneon 100 min. 4/7 $29.98 12/28/2004

Since the first episode, R.O.D. has been very hit or miss for me, with highs and lows on every disc. This time around though, there was one thing to knock it out of the ballpark for me, and it was the first couple of episodes. There was something about the calm, yet deadly fight scenes, and the beautiful symphonic piece in the background that held me captive. Hoping to rescue Nenene from the Dokusensha headquarters, the three sisters are in for their biggest challenge so far. Having to split up to accomplish their goal, they need to fight their way past a barricade of machine guns, and a ferocious paper user with the strength to neutralize all of their attacks. (Though one has to wonder, how can these people shoot paper out of their wrists, Spiderman style, when there's no place to put the paper? Lies.) Even with all of their hard work, the girls soon learn that things are about to take a dramatic turn. With Hong Kong drastically changed and the waves of turmoil resonating throughout the world, the conflicts are just starting. Prior to this disc, the episodic and oftentimes silly nature of the series had made me quite lukewarm to it, but now that it's charging into its main story arc, it's showing quite a bit of extra promise. Mark this one on your lists.

R.O.D. (är ō dē) nA large, cylindrical object that can be used to support something—in this case, the collapsing infrastructure of Hong Kong, previously bolstered by a company's sinister secrets.
Syn: Skillful girls infiltrating giant headquarters? That's Noir for you, only without the moving reams of paper.

Spiral Vol. #2 – Disarming Fate
FUNimation 100 min. 2/6 $29.98 12/28/2004

Watching Spiral is like watching the two world-class chess champions in the middle of a match, only instead of ivory pieces, there're bombs, poison, and the risk of death. As Asumu and Hiyono try to track down Imazato's killer, an eerie secret is revealed about the Blade Children—they all have one physical trait in common. But like all characters who Know Too Much™, they must now be eliminated. Soon it becomes a battle of wits against the clock as both sides scramble to save their lives and win the deadly game that they've set up. Unsurprisingly, none of the questions raised in the first volume have been answered yet, as the series continues baiting viewers with the same “What are the Blade Children?” shtick. Even so, there's enough added elements of suspense and action to stay exciting. Finding out about the Blade Children's physical defect chilled me to the core, and watching the characters try to one-up the other's logic was bliss. It's characters like Asumu and Hiyono that make this series fun; they play off each other wonderfully, and even from episode to episode, the internal changes that they go through make it a worthwhile journey to watch. Mysteries, fatalities, pretty boys, and more—give this show a shot.

Spiral (spī'rəl) n: A swirled path where, no matter how fast two people run away from each other, they can always be next to each other, ready to anticipate and intercept the other's next move.
Syn: There's nothing like the thrill from watching characters race against time and try to duke it out on the logic field... but I really can't think of any other series like this. As far as great detectives go, I can only point you towards Case Closed.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Dreamworks 99 min. 1/1 $29.99 12/28/2004

Innocence is in two words, beautiful... and pretentious. It's beautiful in just about every superficial way—the artwork is delectable, the animation is fluid and flawless, and the colors are majestic and vibrant. Soundwise, the sound engineering is masterfully done, with spot-on sound effects and a beautiful score to match. But then there's the pretension. It's the thick layer of bull that coats the entire movie, a monument to Oshii's firm belief that he can do no wrong, and the nodding heads around him that let him have his way. At the outset, the story opens as an investigation behind gynoids who are going berserk and killing their masters. As Batou and Togusa pry deeper into the case, they stumble upon something much more sinister. Escalating into a kidnapping case with an anticlimactic ending, you realize during the credits that you just spent 99 minutes of your life watching a film that accomplished nothing. At the root of the problem is the dialogue. Every few minutes, the characters spout off a literature quote, with sources ranging from the Bible, to Paradise Lost. Even with all the analysis in the world, viewers will come to accept that the quotes don't actually mean anything; they're just there to make Oshii seem smarter. Really, the movie is worth seeing at least once, and it may even be worth buying, just for the art and animation alone. The high production values truly shine through in this visual masterpiece, and it almost makes the entire experience worthwhile. Just don't be expecting anything extraordinary beneath the shiny surface.

Innocence (ǐn'ə-səns) n - The feeling of naïveté ascribed to one prior to seeing Ghost In the Shell 2, when he/she believes that the words “Oshii” and “Ghost in the Shell” combined in a sentence will produce magic.
Syn: If you're hunting for pretty artwork slathered in pompous BS, try ADV's recent release of A Tree of Palme. Or if you'd rather check out the clearer and better side of Ghost in the Shell, watch Stand Alone Complex.

Twelve Kingdoms Vol. #9 - Atonement
Media Blasters 125 min. 9/10 $29.98 12/28/2004

Another great climax, another anticlimactic denouement. Perhaps I would have been more enchanted had I been reading the novels, but I got what I wanted out of it: entertainment, an engaging story, and a good way to spend 125 minutes of my life. The sounds of battle have reached a feverish pitch, and it's nigh time for something dramatic to happen. With imperial forces slowly advancing on the resistance forces, they're running out of options, so it's up to Youko to decide the course of action. Only, what ends up happening is a bit disappointing in terms of visual entertainment. With the right drops of diplomacy, everything finds a way to settle into place, and lead into the next story arc. In a way, it's this abrupt switching of story arcs that makes me wish I was reading the novels instead. It's much harder to get myself excited over a new story when I know that the scenes before me will soon pass, but it's all about enjoying it while it lasts. If you've only been haphazardly following this series until now though, you'd do well to catch up first, as it's a bit hard to invest yourself in this volume unless you have a previous connection with the characters. Still, if you're up for some political drama in a fantasy world, this will pique your interest.

Twelve Kingdoms (twĕlv kĭng'dəmz) A conglomeration of nations whose stability can be easily swayed by playing the right political games.
Syn: If you enjoyed the fantasy aspects and sly plotting of Twelve Kingdoms, then check out Bandai's new release of Scrapped Princess.

E's Otherwise Vol. #1 - Operation: Gald City
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 02/15/2005

E's Otherwise is many things. It's clichéd, far-fetched, vibrant, easy on the eyes... but if there's one thing it's not, it's dull. From the opening till the end, it has a way of keeping you under its spell, even though you know you've sent the same exact plot devices in other movies and shows before. Maybe it's the beautiful artwork and the good-looking characters that make the whole thing easier, but once it was in, I didn't want to stop. At some point in the future, the world is governed by twelve organizations, one of them in charge of protecting psychics called E's. Feared by the world for their powers (ranging from teleportation to blowing stuff up), the best ones are gathered under one roof and used as a peacekeeping force against stray psychics. After a dangerous mission, the main character is injured and taken in by a guy in Gald City. There, he gets the chance to learn more about the outside world and the menacing plans that the organization really has in store for the psychics. Wait, people with special powers herded by a corporation, sent to get rid people just like them, all the while thinking they're working for a swell company that actually has sinister plans unbeknownst to everyone else? Whaaaaat?! It should sound familiar to you, only because it's been done before. There's seriously not a single twist or plot device that viewers can't see ahead of time, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment of the series. The characters are pretty and easy to look at, the animation is smooth, and the story flows at a nice pace. If you're jaded beyond belief, you might be taken aback at the reused stereotypes in this story, but if you're just looking for a fun disc to rent for a bit of mental power action, E's Otherwise would make an excellent choice.

E's Otherwise (ĕs ŭ'thər-wīz) n: X-Men.
Syn: For a similar storyline with the same themes, try s.CRY.ed.

Stellvia - Foundation III
Genone 75 min. 3/8 $24.98 02/08/2005

After the thrills of the second volume, I felt for sure that the series could only get more and more exciting as it progressed. Either I was wrong, or I have seriously high expectations. Despite her confidence boosts in the last disc, and her rapid rise through the class ranks, Shipon manages to slip back into her usual useless self at the start of these episodes. Resorting to crying and panicking at every turn, she makes the series incredibly frustrating to watch. However, if there was one thing that was supposed to shake up the action, it was the Second Wave. Sadly, even this was not destined to give the show more panache. Moving at a sluggish pace, the whole situation was over far too fast, and the events that followed were far short of thrilling. With over half the series to go, though, one can only assume that the creators have far greater things up their sleeves than an Earth-destroying phenomenon. While this set of episodes was disappointing in terms of both the story and the removed emphasis from the characters, one can't help but wonder what will transpire in the volumes to come. After all, if the biggest event in contemporary history was settled in a few episodes, only greater excitement can ensue. I once said that one's appreciation for this series hinged heavily on their feelings towards the characters, and I still agree with that. With the characters playing such a huge role in the key events, it's hard to be engrossed with the series if you strongly dislike them. Still, I can't help but be a bit curious at what new Big Event will take place next. The series still shows quite a bit of potential, so keep this one on your radar screens.

Stellvia (stĕl'vē-ŭ) n: A coming of age that shows that oftentimes, it's hard for people to really change.
Syn: There's always someone who has to save the universe from being annihilated by natural disasters, and it's documented nicely in Vandread and Battle Athletes Victory.

Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #28: Three Kingdoms
FUNimation 62 min. 28/? $24.98 12/28/2004

It's a wonder that Yu Yu Hakusho can still stay interesting after so many episodes. It's more of a wonder that they can keep coming up with new excuses why Super Powerful Enemies are always destined to fall in the wake of a boy with determination and gusto. The delicate balance of power that keeps the Demon World from plunging into havoc is beginning to break up. But first, Yusuke must journey to his ancestor's throne to find out more about who he is. Unsurprisingly, another tough challenge greets him, but with so many volumes left to go, will he be able to get past this new barricade?! Only TIME will tell! Truthfully, the resolution to every new Yu Yu Hakusho can be sniffed out a mile away, but it doesn't prevent it from being highly entertaining. Maybe it's the energetic characters, or the thrill in finding out how they'll squirm out of each new situation, but like all the previous volumes, this disc is a good cure for anyone's shounen anime itch. If you're left with nothing to do this weekend, have a bit of fun with this.

Yu Yu Hakusho (yü yü hŏ'kü-shō) n: A show where boys who can explode things with their hands learn how to explode even bigger things with their hands, all in a day's work.
Syn: If the Powers That Be decide to grant us the licensing power, there's a lot of fun shows out there that feature people using their inner powers to wipe out demons, like Bleach and one of my old favorites, Bakuen Campus Guardress.

Wedding Peach Vol. #9 - Wedding Day
ADV Films 150 min. 9/10 $29.98 02/08/2005

I gave up on the possibility of taking this show even semi-seriously many, many volumes ago. Now it's just a silly anomaly in the shoujo genre, using standard shoujo stories, shoujo plot twists, shoujo archetypes... and wedding references spliced in at every turn. Poor Momoko is heartbroken because her dear soccer star is actually a devil! Not just any devil, mind you, but the Worst Devil of ALL! With so many hearts on the line, will True Love be able to prevail? Can the love flutters of a junior high school girl be able to save the world from demonic peril? If you're anticipating a logical ending, and assuming that not every bad guy can be toasted into glittery-eyed happiness, you've clearly not been following this series. While most series take this time to end with a satisfying boom, the grand finale of Wedding Peach feels exactly like any given volume in the show. From the way that the characters deal with their enemies, no one would even guess that they'd reached the final battle. Not the best thing in the world to fire up those brain synapses, but if you're thirsting for a silly shoujo fix this week, reach for Wedding Peach.

Wedding Peach (wĕd'ĭng pēch) n A fruit indigenous to central Japan traditionally eaten before a wedding which grants you the power to face all of the world's problems using the same tactics you've used all your life.
Syn: Gee, magical girls saving the world from repetitive bad-guys-of-the-week? That's a toughie. How's about Sailor Moon and Tokyo Mew Mew for starters?

Sister Princess Vol. #3 - Sisters & Sunshine
ADV Films 100 min. 3/7 $29.98 02/08/2005

Truly, if sisters spend most of their waking hours dreaming of their brother and trying to win his romantic interest, isn't there something a bit off in their brain circuits? Societal practices of the 21st century dictate that it's no longer hip to lust after your sibling, and really, it's more than a bit weird. Not to mention the fact that it's excruciatingly painful for those sentenced to watch the romantic cavorting of siblings, which, multiplied by twelve, is painful like only mental anguish can be. It's summertime fun at Incest Palace, and this can only mean one thing: little girls in swimsuits. From swimming lessons to a trip at sea, these episodes are a haven for viewers who have been dying to see the gals in skimpy clothing. Other than that, there's not much else there. Devoid of all substance and meaning, these episodes really serve no purpose other than letting the girls try to snuggle up to their brother, and extending the requisite Swimsuit Episode into a full disc. Maybe the show will surprise me and break out an immensely complex story near the end, with tear-jerking tales of friendship. Sadly, my lack of clairvoyance doesn't allow me to confirm this. All I know is that right now, the third volume of Sister Princess was a waste of time, space, and cute music. There're so many great shows out right now... please don't waste your life away on this.

Sister Princess (sĭs'tər prĭn'sĕst) n: A historical reference back to the days when those of royal blood married within the family to maintain blood lines.
Syn: When it comes to sisters vying for their brother's affection, there's nothing quite like Please Twins.

Kekko Kamen
ADV Films 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 02/15/2005

Somewhere in a distant corner of the world, there is an Evil boarding school named the Spartan Institute of Higher Education. It's run by an Evil man named the Big Toenail of Satan, which is another indication that the whole place is Evil. To make sure of it, there's also a continual cadre of Punishment Teachers with their own particular fetish, like S&M, taking pictures of naked girls, and electrocuting nipples with android tentacles. One thing to keep in mind is that Kekko Kamen is the brainchild of Go Nagai, a man who excels at making giant robot stories, and listening to his penis. At the Spartan Institute, all bad students must be punished, but because the teachers are all perverts, they only punish females—and they do it by sexually humiliating them or molesting them. Poor Mayumi is one of the worst students at the school, so she spends most of the disc naked. Luckily for all of the naked maidens in the world, they have a saviour—KEKKO KAMEN! She is the purveyor of justice, saving damsels in distress wearing nothing but a mask and boots. Her secret attacks? Landing spread-eagled on men's faces, smearing them with righteousness. Unfortunately, the show spends a lot of energy trying to be funny, but with the thick layer of cheese spread atop of everything, it's hard to find the humour in the whole pile. Truth be told, Kekko Kamen is almost worth seeing at least once in your life, just because it's so flagrantly stupid. Like moths to a flame, people are always drawn towards the bad and the degenerate, and this is one of them. Just don't be expecting anything notable out of this. There's only so far a naked woman with a whip and an ugly schoolgirl can take a story.

Kekko Kamen (kā'kō kä'mən) n: A superhero who was refused from the ranks of the Justice League because of a continual disregard for the dress code.
Syn: For some reason, this show reminded me of a goofier, and thankfully shorter, version of Devil Lady. When it comes to naked ladies spitting in the face of evil, no one does it like Go Nagai.

That's it for this time. Thanks for reading!

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