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Shelf Life
Back to the Future... of Anime

by Bamboo Dong,
With everyone out there whipping their bodies into shape for the new summer season, it's time for Shelf Life to revamp too. Originally, the point of the column was to preview each upcoming week's new releases so readers could figure out what was coming out and get a few opinions as to what to spend their hard-earned dough on... and what to avoid like the black plague. As time wore on though, things started to fall behind.

BUT NEVER FEAR!!! The original Shelf Life is here! From now on, each week's Shelf Life will showcase the upcoming Tuesday's new releases. Then, at random intervals in between the new columns (every Monday) complementary ones will fill in the gaps, like old releases that never got reviewed, stuff that was missed the first time around, and so on. Because the column deals with titles that haven't hit the shelves yet, it depends heavily on screeners. Buuuuut... sometimes, screeners don't come in for some titles until a few weeks after the release date. So, whatever titles the Monday columns leave out, hopefully they'll be filled in sometime later within the next few weeks. They'll make for shorter columns, but that'll let them be finished in a more timely manner and it's less of a hassle to read.

For all those readers who have stuck with me for so long, I can't thank you enough! Welcome to Shelf Life.

Planetes DVD 1
Bandai 125 min. 1/6 06/14/2005 $29.98

Wow. Every few months or so, there's a show that reminds you why you became an anime fan in the first place. Not only does Planetes do that ten times over, but it makes you think about your life, the people in your life, and the millions of other things that help craft society. One of the best shows this year, Planetes is a perfect snapshot of the middle and working class whose heroes and heroines are not superheroes or magical princesses, but people like You and Me. Several decades into the future, man has reached the point where interplanetary travel has become common. With all the debris orbiting around Earth, though, it's become so dangerous that special agencies have been created to dispose of it. Despite how invaluable and irreplaceable the debris handlers are, they're the worst paid, most understaffed, and least appreciated department in the entire organization. Called the Half Section by the rest of the agency, their story is chronicled in Planetes, from their missions to their hopes and dreams. Blending the perfect amount of humor and drama, the show really shines in its character development. Everyone has a certain depth and complexity that makes them easy to identify with and follow, and it drives the show forward even without the help of an obviously defined, overarching storyline. Even though the main girl is incredibly irritating at times, the show is a blast to watch. For everyone who's sick of watching boring archetypes do stereotypical things, this is a show that makes an effort to present human nature at its most candid, be it despair or hope. You won't regret picking up this one.

Related products: If tales of ordinary people reaching for their dreams touches you, don't forget to watch the classic, Wings of Honneamise.
Tastes like: Apples. The quintessential fruit that's perfect anywhere, anytime, they're a staple of grocery stores, despite how seemingly commonplace they are.

The Melody of Oblivion DVD 1 - Arrangement + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $39.98 06/14/2005
The Melody of Oblivion DVD 1 – Arrangement
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 06/14/2005

This is a series that has so many ups and downs that it's hard to know what to think about it at the end. After a violent war between humans and monsters, a bloody victory was eventually had by the monsters. Over time, people slowly began to forget about the atrocities, and life eventually strayed back to its original path. The monsters still exist, but there are men known as the Warriors of Melos who dedicate their lives to killing monsters and protecting humans. Among these is Bocca, a student who pined to be a warrior. True to anime fashion, he gets his wish and miraculously learns all of the attacks he needs to combat bad guys. The premise of the show is fairly interesting: only warriors can see The Melody of Oblivion, the image of a girl who's said to be trapped in a secret location. Over the episodes, viewers start to learn what the monsters are, how they integrate themselves into he lives of the humans, and what the Warriors do. Unfortunately, the way that all of the information is doled out is an absolute mess for the first two episodes. The scenes jump around, the leaps of logic are completely random, and the characterization is so patchy that by the end of four episodes, you know virtually nothing about the main players and what motivations they have for anything. Despite all the problems, the show is still intriguing and I can't help but be fascinated at the story unfolding in front of me. Everything the characters say leave me wanting to know more about the Melody, and like the experience of sitting down with a video game, it's hard to tear yourself away once you tell yourself “just a little bit further, until the next save point.” Yeah, the organization is all over the place right now, but it's worth seeing.

Related products: These kinds of shows where kids learn that they're destined to be warriors are a dime a dozen, but with this kind of murky, serious atmosphere, it's a lot like Betterman or Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Tastes like: Chocolate pudding. You've had it a million times before, but every bite gets tastier and tastier until you realize you can't put down the bowl.

Galaxy Angel Z DVD 3 – Stranded Without Dessert
Bandai 105 min. 3/3 $29.98 06/14/2005

This show is too much fun. Sure, it's trivial, pointless, and has no aim outside of pleasing fans with its cute characters and crazy hijinks, but whatever they put in the water, it works. This volume seems to really focus on how wacky all of the girls are, sans Vanilla. Complete with snide commentary by the too-cute Nomad, these episodes play up the personalities of all the girls as much as they can. Like usual, the girls are saddled with a slew of missions, but like always, there are mishaps in the way that lead to planetary destruction, injury, and plenty of property damage. Whether it's Vanilla chasing down a drunkard who's kidnapped Nomad, or the girls on a mad hunt for beauty-enhancing fish, or the gang trying out their newfound superpowers (yes, superpowers) the episodes are short, simple, and a boatload of fun. It's cutesy fanservice through and through, but it's great for any dreary afternoon when you're just looking to laugh. It's lowbrow humor, to be sure, but there's no denying how fun it is. If you're just looking for a good time sometime this week, plop down with the last volume of Galaxy Angel Z.

Related products: All about traveling around in space carrying at random missions, the show reminds me a bit of Lost Universe, only with more girls. Of course, don't forget to watch the other Galaxy Angel series for more Angel Corps fun.
Taste like: Lucky Charms. As far as breakfast cereals go, it's frivolous and gimmicky, but every time you bite into a marshmallow, it fills you full of sugary goodness.

Gatchaman Collector's Edition DVD Box 1 (DVD 1 & 2) + Bonus DVD
ADV Films 250 min. 1-2/? $44.98 06/14/2005 Gatchaman DVD 1 - The Legend Begins
ADV Films 125 min. 1/? $14.98 06/14/2005
Gatchaman DVD 2 - Meteors & Monsters
ADV Films 125 min. 2/? $14.98 06/14/2005

Go Science Ninja Team!!!!! Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!! ... You know, back in the 70s, that was probably really cool, what with all the spandex bird boys yelling silly things and going overboard killing monsters of the week. Nowadays though, the only reason to watch it is for 1) Nostalgia and 2) The Cheese Factor(TCF™). As many older fans will remember, Battle of the Planets/G-Force was one of the neatest things on TV back in the day. Sure, it was pretty goofy, but it was action-packed and rad in the same way that Johnny Quest was the ultimate in Cool. Flash forward to now, though, and it's just not a very good show. The world is under attack, one monster at a time, by a secret organization called Galactor. Like all supervillains, their goal is to take over the world, but one group of valiant lycra-wearing warriors has their sights and their overdramatic scientific plans set on them—it's the Science Ninja Team!! The problem is, it's the same good guys defeating the same bad guys every single episode, using the same techniques (on a slightly different monster). It gets really old really fast, and even the silly action scenes and the utterly ridiculous plots aren't enough to make it worth more than a chuckle. Unless you want this for nostalgia, you should just watch this once, if only for the cheesy 70s superhero action. Uranium stealing robots? Radioactive ants invading a city? A supervillain with a hard-on for cosplay? Too lame to pass up.

Related products: For a less serious take on the superhero genre, take The Daichis out for a spin. Other than that, if you want something like Gatchaman, you'd best be off with some American stuff like Johnny Quest and the Justice League.
Tastes like: Colored marshmallows. Every kid loves them, but when you grow up, you realize it's just a regular marshmallow that looks really damned fruity.

That's the skinny on tomorrow's releases; see you next week for more stuff, including Gilgamesh, Girls Bravo, and one of the titles I missed this week, Baki the Grappler!

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