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Shelf Life
B-b-b-b-back and Lovin' It

by Bamboo Dong,
So, where have I been for so long? Sadly, strapped to a chair with my eyes glued to books and computer screens, doing schoolwork that I thought would never end. Recently, things became even more thrilling when I affirmed my hatred of doing group projects. I originally wanted to open up a can of disgust and vitriol, but realized halfway through, I realized, “why on Earth would I want to relive that again?” Good point. Instead, I'd rather take the time to thank everyone who's IMed, PMed, emailed, or talked to me lately and showed their support of Shelf Life. I really appreciate all of the kindness that everyone's shown me; had it not been for your soothing words, I might have really flipped out and burned a textbook in effigy. Now, in this brief respite before a final (translation: while I'm procrastinating), I figured the least I could do was start trying to catch up on my review pile. I'll really catch up this time, honestly! If I don't keep my word, punch me the next time you see me at a convention. 2 DVDs to whomever makes me shed a tear first.

Thanks again everyone, and welcome to Shelf Life.

Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind
BuenaVista 117 min. 1/1 $29.99 02/22/2005

Back in high school, a friend of mine lent me the Nausicaa graphic novels for a paper I was writing on pacifism and transcendentalism. Since then, I had pined for the day when I could watch Nausicaa uncut, in all its beautiful, visual glory. When I finally had the chance to watch it, I found that all the anticipation had been worth it. Seldom do films move me to tears as a result of the raw emotions pouring out of the screen, but this movie had me staring agape with water gushing down my face. Set in a future where mankind is living on the brink of extinction at the mercy of toxic forests and giant insects, Nausicaa tells a touching story about one girl who saves humanity through compassion and determination. Weaving a stunning tapestry of artistry and emotions, it backs up a rock-solid storyline with amazing art direction and one of the most soothing music scores to ever grace a Ghibli film. Admittedly, I've never been a die-hard Ghibli or Miyazaki fan, so I didn't have any overly high expectations when I finally saw this movie for the first time. Two hours later, I determined that it was one of the best movies I'd ever seen. Maybe I'm a nature nut, or a softie for movies where a lone hero saves the world from a vicious humanity, but no matter the reason, this is something that everyone needs to own in order to have a complete anime collection.

Must sell by: Anywhere, anytime. Really a timeless classic, this one will be good for you, your children, and your children's children.
Other brands: To watch nature triumph further over man, immerse yourself in one of Miyazaki's other greats, Princess Mononoke, or check out ADV's recent release of the odd, but beautiful Tree of Palme.

Wolf's Rain Vol. #5 - War for the Soul
Bandai 100 min. 5/7 $29.98 01/04/2005

The problem with Wolf's Rain is that once you start watching, you can't stop. Inevitably, the disc will end on a cliff-hanger, and part of your brain will be useless until you can feed it the next volume. After the disappointment of the fourth volume, the fifth disc picks up the momentum again and delivers a set of four captivating episodes. Kiba thinks he might have found Paradise when he stumbles upon a beautiful valley, but the longer he stays there, the fainter his memory of the outside world and Cheza get. In the meantime, the other wolves are trying frantically to track him down. The last volume may have been a let down, but this one is definitely a pleaser. One of the things I've always loved about Wolf's Rain is the pacing. Whether it's fast-pumping action or just character development, it always moves along at the perfect, optimal speed. Even with a volume having such a diverse range of scenes, the fifth volume flew by in a flash. Definitely a keeper.

Must sell by: Preferably not too late. Wolf's Rain thrives on momentum, and with a series this good, you'll want it ASAP anyway.
Other brands: There's really not much out there like Wolf's Rain. However, if you want a show about guys searching for a fabled goal, try Fullmetal Alchemist.

Wolf's Rain Vol. #6 - Paradise and Poison
Bandai 125 min. 6/7 $29.98 03/22/2005

Typically, I try to stay calm when I'm watching anything, be it anime or movies, but man alive! I actually screamed in agony at the end of this disc because for some reason, I had expected it to be the last volume. Ending on one of the biggest cliff-hangers in the entire series, it took a full two hours for me to stop angsting about it. Jaguara finally has everything she needs to open her false Paradise, but Kiba is hell-bent on retrieving Cheza at all costs. However, there's something really odd about the entire city, and something even odder about Hige's behaviour. I had thought volume 5 was heart-pounding, but this one was ridiculous. Completely captivating from start to finish, this is one of the best volumes to date. Even so close to the end, plot twists are still being thrown out at a furious rate while the rest of the disc sets up for what can only be a thrilling finale. Put this in your collection.

Must sell by: As soon as possible. Yeah, it'll stay fresh for years and years to come, but why would you want to wait? Hurry up and get your action fix.
Other brands: For another sweeping saga of achieving one's dreams and overcoming adversities to do it, watch Last Exile.

The Cat Returns
Buena Vista 75 min. 1/1 $29.99 02/22/2005

It may not be one of the best Ghibli films ever made, but The Cat Returns is one of my favorite movies. Maybe I'm a wimp for cats, but there's something about this movie that makes me happy every single frame. When Haru rescues a cat's life, she finds herself in a rather unique situation—she's suddenly in the good graces of the ruler of the Cat Kingdom, and engaged to be married to the crown prince! Whisked into their world against her will, her only hope of escape is an alliance with a fat cat named Muta and a gentlemanly feline named Baron. What's so lovely about the movie is that it really unfolds like a fairy tale. Packed with sweet, fantastical characters, and a quiet sense of action and humor, it's almost like watching a Disney movie, minus all the singing and dancing. As a movie, it's not particularly complex or deep; in fact, it's a very straightforward story with a very standard rise-climax-denouement, but there's something so innocent about it that it's almost irresistible. One of the most charming movies I've seen in the past year, it's a perfect movie for parents to watch with their kids. Cute, light-hearted, and delightful, this is a great family movie to own.

Must sell by: Before the kids (or your inner child) grow up too much. It's a cute movie that could entertain viewers of all ages, but the younger you are, the more you'll be taken in by this adorable film.
Other brands: Be sure to watch Whispers of the Heart, for more of the same Baron-rific adventures. And, when it comes to more touching tales about kids and critters, don't forget My Neighbor Totoro.

Overman King Gainer Vol. #1 - Yapan's Exodus
Bandai 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 02/22/2005

Okay, this show is awesome. No, it's not because of the actual content. That's only just kind of cool. It's awesome because of the goofy opening theme. There's a silly song, robots doing the Monkey, people doing ballet, and people ICE DANCING. In outer space!!! If anything, you should rent this show just to watch the opening sequence. The disc starts off in a bit of confusion (actually, it's not really until the end of the volume that viewers even know what's going on). In the distant future, humanity is clustered into domed cities called Domepolises. Dependant upon the Siberian Railway for all of their supplies and communication, the cities are all taxed heavily. One day, during a festival, a rogue band decides to perform an Exodus, a revolt which would break apart the city and forcefully move it across the country in search of a legendary land called Yapan. In comes the underdog hero, a nerdy game otaku who goes by the name of King Gainer. Mistakenly arrested for being allegedly tied to the Exodus, he ironically becomes the main fighting force for the movement, piloting an Overman against the Siberian Railway troops. While interesting, the show took almost three episodes to start making sense. Plopping viewers into the middle of everything, without even trying to explain what an Exodus is, it expects viewers to be able to figure things out on their own. Like most Tomino shows, it's filled with plenty of political strife, underdog piloting heroics, and plenty of mecha vs. mecha combat. Throw in some Overmans that can do crazy stuff like stop time, and you've got a fun show that'll give any mecha fan a jolly in his pants. It's a bit confusing and kind of silly to be sure, but it's well worth the rental.

Must sell by: Honestly, this show is almost a bit past its prime. With so many mecha shows available on the market, series really need to try hard to distinguish themselves. Luckily, I think the crazy ice dancing in the opening may just do it.
Other brands: With the super-powered robots and their plethora of secrets, this is reminiscent of another Tomino series, Brain Powerd.

Taruto, Magical Meow Meow Vol. #1 - A Magic Cat
Bandai 69 min. 1/4 $29.98 02/22/2005

There's cute, and then there's too cute. Taruto is, without a doubt, too damned cute. It's so saccharine-sweet and nyan-tastic it's almost hard to sit through it without staring at the characters in horror. Once upon a time, there existed a powerful cat kingdom, ruled by a wise magic-user. Eventually, war broke out, fur flew, and oh by the way, there exists a cat princess with extraordinary magical powers that was whisked away to another world. Zoom into the setting of the anime series, where a scatterbrained boy and his sister have just moved into a house with a gorgeous view of the city and an ominously dark house in the distance. Of course, the real heroine of the story is Taruto, a cute little cat-girl who dreams of someday marrying her master. Together with her new found companions, she must escape a pesky cat-thief and dodge villains with her (also cute) magical powers. Could she possibly be the legendary princess from the cat kingdom?! Gee, I wonder. The concept of the show is rather cute, in that as far as viewers can tell, the humans in the show see the cat-people as regular cats, even though they're depicted as miniature humans with feline ears and a tail. Different from other cat-girl shows that use them as fetish characters, Taruto seems to use them exclusively to pump up the cuteness factor. With a cast of cats ranging from pompous to pimp, klutzy to crazy, the show is undoubtedly fun and frivolous, but unless you've got a high tolerance for lots of pink and plenty of meows, you'd best be careful about diving headfirst into this show.

Must sell by: Now. This is one of those impulse buys that suddenly seize upon you one day when you find yourself with a spare $20. You wouldn't normally buy it, and you know that if you waited around for a minute longer, your senses would come back and you'd think better of it.
Other brands: If catgirls are your thing, then all the Digi Charat shows will have you purrin' (HAR HAR).

Requiem from the Darkness Vol. #3 - Pain of the Damned
Geneon 75 min. 3/? $24.98 02/15/2005

Sometimes, the best thing about books is that while you're devouring the words, you're momentarily transported to another dimension. The characters become alive in your mind, and the text forms objects in front of you. Then there's visual media, where some of the imagination is depicted, to save you the trouble. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, like in Requiem of the Darkness, it doesn't. That was something that was meant to stay a book, so your mind could come alive with possibilities and horror and suspense. Instead, what is left is a series of intriguing stories that are hampered by ugly visuals and a snooze-worthy pace. With the third volume, tales of murder and revenge are told with the help of the supernatural. Men have been dying mysteriously, found with rocks imbedded in their skulls. The author suggests sugar gliders and other woodland creatures, but is it possible that it's all the work of a man with a vendetta, possessed by a ghoul who's feeding off his hatred? (Gee, not that the trends of any of the other episodes could give any indication of a pattern.) Then there's the tale of a man who keeps coming back alive, no matter how many times he's slain. Is he a demon, or is it just another story of possession and foul play? If you're in the mood for a morose show, Requiem from the Darkness does an adequate job of doling out suspense, but it stumbles in its delivery and execution. Perhaps if the pacing wasn't so hobbled, it would illicit more gasps of horror rather than yawns.

Must sell by: Meh. As a horror series, it's really not scary; as a suspense, it's not very gripping. This show kind of just exists. You could probably live without it.
Syn: The mood reminded me much of the Vampire Princess Miyu OVA, which spins more stories about the supernatural and the paranormal.

Lupin III: Dead or Alive
FUNimation 90 min. 1/1 $29.95 02/22/2005

I've always been endlessly amused by Lupin III movies, and I have no plans to stop this anytime soon. Especially not when there're fun flicks out there like Dead or Alive. Like most Lupin III movies, it follows the same “Ooh, treasure! Ohnoez, Zenigata! Oh crap, bad guy! AAH Fujiko! GOLD! Boom, bang, POW! Clay Mask Trick!” formula that's prevalent in every one, but the way that each stage is carried out is always unpredictable and amusing. Half the fun is just in seeing if you can figure out what will happen in the story before it reveals itself. In this movie, Lupin and his buddies are out to get the treasure of Drift Isle, an isolated land mass closely guarded by deadly nanomachines. The only way to avoid the AI-run machines of death is to find the key, but this somehow leads to a country run by a vicious dictator. With elements of love and death (though certainly not for our womanizer Lupin), random story tidbits that have nothing to do with the movie, unanswered questions, and plenty of espionage along the way, this movie is an awfully fun ride. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, give this a rental. Maybe it'll even find its way onto your shelf.

Must sell by: If the Lupin movies have stayed fresh for so long, they aren't set to expire anytime soon. Funny no matter when you watch it, gobble them up before they're gone.
Other brands: After you're done with all the other Lupin properties, you might be in the mood for something fluffier and much girlier like Saint Tail, another thief-with-police-nemesis show.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Vol. #3 - Nocturnal Fate
Geneon 100 min. 3/3 $29.98 02/22/2005

Unlike the first two volumes of Tsukihime, this one actually had some semblance of meaning, rather than just pretty artwork and scary vibes. After spending so long shining a flashlight in its face and trying to set up an eerie atmosphere, the show finally goes in for the kill and reveals the truths its been hiding all this time. In a particularly creepy scene, Shiki finds his way into the basement of his house where a dark cell brings back much of his old memories. Secrets about his past, his family, and his origins are finally revealed and really, it's kind of neat. To make matters worse, Roa's back again looking for some specific people to kill. With all this buildup though, the ending is kind of a let down. Given all the suspense building up at such a frantic pace, the ending was rather anticlimactic in comparison. Even so, it's nice to see the story actually moving forward in comparison with some of the earlier episodes. Overall, it's been a classy-feeling show, despite its porn game origins. If you've been following the story up until now, might as well round it out with this.

Must sell by: Next week. This DVD's already been around long enough. Frankly, it doesn't have enough staying power to be interesting much longer.
Other brands: Secretive family ties and violence? Watch ADV's recent release of Elfen Lied for more along the same lines.

Star Ocean EX Vol. #1 – The Inception + Artbox
Geneon 125 min. 1/6 $39.98 01/04/2005
Star Ocean EX Vol. #1 – The Inception
Geneon 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 01/04/2005

It's a bad sign when you watch the first ten minutes of a show, pause it to make a list of things you already know are going to happen, and make a game of checking items off as you go along. When I first received the disc, I was afraid that I would be at a disadvantage having not played any of the games. I soon realized it didn't matter, because the story was so cliché and so extremely predictable that I already knew how the first five episodes were going to progress, and at what pace. Undoubtedly, if you loved all of the games and sleep with the discs under your pillow, you'll probably love this series to bits. It encompasses the feeling of an RPG so well that I could picture onscreen text telling me where to go and what items I picked up. While on an expedition with his father's space crew, Claude gets pulled into another world. He finds out that the world is being consumed by monsters, but to find out how he can get back home, he must venture ever closer to their breeding ground. Accompanying him is an irritating bimbo and a cute Last-Member-Of-A-Dying-Race-Elf-Thing who thinks he's the legendary warrior sent to deliver them from peril. With mini-bosses and fated encounters along the way, they must continue leveling up as best they can! Normally I wouldn't throw much recommendation behind such a show to people unfamiliar with the games, but I tell you what, this makes for a great drinking game. The rules are easy: based on your knowledge of RPGs and fantasy stories, write down everything you think can happen in 125 minutes. Then every time you're right (or every time the main character is a wuss), take a swig. Boredom getting you down? Not anymore.

Must sell by: Yesterday. Really, shows about legendary heroes who turn out to be folks form another world are so passé.
Other brands: But... if you don't think it's passé yet, check out Escaflowne and Fushigi Yuugi. Of course, if you're looking for one that reeks of RPG, make it Sorcerous Stabber Orphen.

Popotan Vol. #2 – Enigma
Geneon 100 min. 2/? $24.98 02/22/2005

Goodness, what is that stench? It smells like pre-teen spirit! Not even 4 minutes into the show and viewers are treated to more adolescent boobies. Yeah, they're older than that, but it's a poor excuse when you consider how many people are still jerking off to Mii's nubile body. Their next house jump leads them to a hot spring resort, which provides a great opportunity for girls to strip off their clothes and fondle their breasts underwater. It's not until the next episode, when Ai and Mii accidentally make a house jump without the other two girls that more information is revealed about who the gals actually are, and the mysteries surrounding them and the house. I certainly wasn't expecting the plot twist that revealed more about the house jumps, and it's something that's pumped a bit of life into a previously decaying carcass of a show. I was even more surprised at the episode after that, which revealed another character whose agenda is seemingly related to those of the girls. Still no information yet as to what's really going on, but the series has a bit more to go on now. One might even say it's *gasp* become a teeeeeeny bit interesting. Even so, there's still something about the show that really kills it, despite the inklings of storyline that have surfaced. Really, it's just the characters. With the exception of Mai and Mea who are intriguing in the way they hide or express their emotions, everyone else (ferret included) is insufferable. The amount of gratuitous (pre-adolescent!!) nudity in the show is gross, and there isn't a time that I don't wish I could kick Mii in the face whenever she grabbed someone's bosoms or bit them on the ass. The show has edged its way up from Brain-Numbing Horror to Morbidly Fascinating Curios, but you're better off punching yourself.

Must sell by: Not for sale. No one needs to be subjected to this.
Other brands: The only other recent show that makes me cringe and want to slap things... Sister Princess.

Thanks a million for reading! See you next time!

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