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Shelf Life
Bravo for Brevity

by Bamboo Dong,
Apparently, I either eat people, or I have an army of slobbering zombies marching behind me. I recently got back from a fantastic weekend in New Jersey at Anime Next and nothing pleased me more than getting to meet a bevy of wonderful people. (Well, that and throwing in my luck with Kingdom Hearts trading figures and snagging both Sora and Jack Skellington amongst the three that I bought!) Anyway, I love meeting people at conventions, and believe me when I say this, it truly lights up my whole weekend when someone approaches me and tells me they read my column.

Imagine my surprise then, when a handful of people shyly sidled up to me later and admitted that they had purposely avoided me the whole convention because they thought I was intimidating, and that I would tear them up. SAD EMO SMILEY = ME. Sweet little me? Tear people up? In real life? Not likely. I swear I'm friendly in real life, so the next time you're at a con that I'll be at, hit me up.

I'm shimmying on down to Anaheim in a week and a half to drop it like it's hot at Anime Expo so if it pleases you, gimme a friendly holler at my email address above. Or if you just want to be El Oh El Intarweb friends, I'm down wit' dat. If I find out later that you avoided me because you were scared of me, I'll tear you to shreds and eat you. Biznitch.

Only four again this week, but look out for some in-betweener columns coming your way soon. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Gunslinger Girl DVD 1 + Artbox - Little Girls, Big Guns
FUNimation 125 min. 1/3 $39.98 05/17/2005
Gunslinger Girl DVD 1 - Little Girls, Big Guns
FUNimation 125 min. 1/3 $29.98 05/17/2005

There's something so melancholy and tragic about Gunslinger Girl that it's beautiful and almost elegant. The events that the characters are put through are so hideous and horrible that you can't help but recoil in uneasiness, but at the same time, you can't stop watching their heart-wrenching story. The series takes place somewhere in Italy where little girls on the verge of death are taken in by the Social Welfare Agency and transferred to a government branch where they are brainwashed and transformed into urban combat cyborgs. Each girl is taken in by a handler, a man who's in charge of training her and making sure she fulfills the missions she's given. Over the course of five episodes, the disc follows four girls through their tragic pasts and their empty presents. On the surface, it would be all too easy to tab this as another guns'n'girls show, but within minutes, the fighting takes a backseat to the real focus of the story—the girls, their lives, and their odd existence between human and machine. Some of the girls are treated by their handlers as sisters, others as tools and test subjects, but all of them have their own sad tale. While the show itself varies between sleek assassination missions and simple character dialogue, the overall atmosphere has the same kind of slow pace to it that generally accompanies uncomfortable elevator silence. By no means is it easy to watch, nor is it something that inspires giddy happiness in viewers, but even with just five episodes, it's easy to see that viewers are in for one hell of an emotional ride. To top it off, the artwork is gorgeous and the girls are charming beyond belief. As far as dramas go, Gunslinger Girl is definitely one to see this year.

Related Products: For further tragic narratives of girls who have been taken by the government and modified for their own purposes, check out my favorite heart-render, SaiKano.
Tastes Like: Coffee beans. By themselves, they're bitter and incredibly hard to stomach, but under the right circumstances and brewed perfectly, they can be graceful and oh-so-addicting.

Baki the Grappler DVD 1 + Artbox - Warrior Reborn: Round 1
FUNimation 100 min. 1/12 $39.98 06/14/2005
Baki the Grappler DVD 1 - Warrior Reborn: Round 1
FUNimation 100 min. 1/12 $29.98 06/14/2005

Baki doesn't need testosterone. Baki IS testosterone... bottled up in a 13 year old kid whose days and nights are driven by the desire to be strong, and a warrior's pride to be the best grappler in the world. Left by his parents to live and train alone, his wish is to grow up and be like his absentee father, renowned as the strongest fighter in the world. Until then, he's stuck fighting all the petty street thugs and mafia dogs who challenge him on the street. Not unsurprisingly, there's something more sinister happening in the background. Why are shady guys hiring thugs to attack Baki? Who is that person spying on all his fights? Why is his mom such a bizarre bimbo? Unknown. One thing's for sure though—Baki packs a surprising amount of heart and emotion in a rather unexpected way. No, there's no bunny rabbits or love songs. What you get instead is a young boy who's been left with only one joy in his life, and that's fighting. Day in and day out, he dreams only of becoming strong, even if it means getting pummeled into unconsciousness by world class fighters. Back in 1994, CPM released a movie called “Grappler Baki” that focused on a young man's journey to the top of a karate tournament bracket, but it's a far cry from this TV series. For starters, Baki is now a maniacal, (butch) girly-looking kid who's packed with fire and dynamite. His struggle comes from the heart and from a painful past, and for all the “WAH HUH I'MA SERVE YOU UP A MANWICH” mentality throughout the disc, it's more about a tale of growing up and reaching your dreams than anything else. At least that's what it seems like so far. It's still a little too early to tell though; who knows, maybe it'll be a fist fiesta the whole way through. For now though, keep an eye on this one. It may turn out to be quite the adventure.

Related Products: Shows like Fighting Spirit and Yawara immediately come to mind, for more than just the obvious reason. It's the struggle of youngsters striving to be strong and dignified warriors like their role models that really make for a great story about the vitality of youth.
Tastes Like: Spare ribs smothered in spicy barbeque sauce. Meaty, loud, dripping with virility, but with plenty of juice and individual flavor to spare.

Gilgamesh DVD 1 + Artbox - Orphans of the Apocalypse
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $39.98 06/21/2005
Gilgamesh DVD 1 - Orphans of the Apocalypse
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $29.98 06/21/2005

Dark, gorgeous, mysterious, eerie, suspenseful... All of these words could be used to describe the delicious style fest that is Gilgamesh. Notice, however, that “coherent” is not on the list. Chalk it up to being only the beginning of the series, but chic as the show may be, it doesn't make all that much sense. From what viewers know, a terrorist attack in the past caused a huge disaster that turned the once blue sky into a kaleidoscope of lights and colors. Now the world is dark and run down, but under all the spooky darkness, a war is brewing. On one side, you have Orga, a bunch of mutants who have a plethora of amazing powers. On the other is Gilgamesh, a creepy bunch of pretty people who work for the Evil Scientist™ that sent Earth into the purgatory it's currently in. Somewhere in between are two siblings who are being hunted down to repay someone else's debt, and are now caught in the middle of this epic struggle. What's immediately captivating about the disc are the visuals. Everything is sexy in a morose, Gothic way and the unique character designs give the series a dramatic flair. The only gripe I have right now is that I plain just don't really know what's going on. Who's who, what's what, and why is everyone fighting? I imagine that's the hook the production staff is aiming for though, and it sure as hell works because I can't wait to figure out what's actually happening. It may not make much sense right now, but definitely give Gilgamesh a glance, if only for the gorgeous visuals.

Related products: X. X. X. X. X. This show screams “X” from every pore in its ultra-swank body, and I don't blame it.
Tastes like: Dark chocolate. Seductive and smooth, it baffles in how it's able to make such a delectable treat out of something so bitter.

Girls Bravo DVD 1 + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $34.98 06/21/2005
Girls Bravo DVD 1
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $34.98 06/21/2005

I'm not entirely sure yet, but this may be one of the worst shows that Geneon has ever released to date. From the first scene, it was one giant cliché after another, over and over again, with enough generic shonen romance gimmicks to choke a militia of lonely nerds. Within the first ten minutes of the show, I drummed up a long list of hateful clichés that were popping up like a field of daisies.
  1. Milquetoast hero
  2. Milquetoast hero who lives by himself in a big house
  3. Looks young and incredibly short for his age and admits it
  4. Is allergic to girls
  5. Has a Girl Next Door who has been friends with him for a really long time
  6. She's a violent, self-centered bitch
  7. There are misunderstandings every 1.4 minutes that end with her injuring him
  8. He ends up somewhere else, where there's an astronomical girls to boys ratio
  9. He meets a sweet girl who HE'S NOT ALLERGIC TO!!!!!
  10. All the girls there want him
  11. She goes back to h—

Wait. Why am I even bothering listing all these? I could keep updating this list until my keyboard burst into a vat of flames and still I'd be squinting at the screen, venting my sadness and displeasure at having watched this terrible show. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate some good ol' fanservice every now and then just as much as the next person (Please Twins anyone? DearS? Love it.), but even shows made for masturbation can be absolutely appalling. In any case, the list above pretty much summarizes the first episode. Though in a completely banal twist, Alien Girl goes to Earth and more HAHA CUTE ALIEN GIRL HAHAHA FUNNI-ness ensues. To really beat things to shitters, the girls aren't even that cute. If you want pointless fanservice that's at least humorous or magnificently adorable, wait for Dears or something. Just don't waste your money on something that's essentially a rehash of every shonen romance show ever stamped onto a disc.

Related Products: Girl allergies, boys in big houses, lots of girls = Hanaukyo Maid-tai. Only if you want a shonen romance that isn't a drab cliché fest, try something cuter like the Love Hina Christmas Special or something and cool down this hot summer with something a bit more refreshing.
Tastes like: Galveston, TX tap water. For something that's so damned common and boring to begin with, it sure tastes like shit.

And that's all she wrote. She being me, and wrote being typed. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week!

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