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Shelf Life
Kyo Kara Muyo

by Bamboo Dong,
Dear Members of the Alternative Press,

You are not “too cool” to rock out at a J-Pop/Rock concert. If you are covering a concert, you should be at least mildly into what's happening on the stage. If you don't enjoy the music, ask someone else to cover the event for you. If the whole room is on their feet clapping and cheering along, including the row in front of you, yet you choose to remain sitting so you can sulk in your stoicness, don't be rude and snap for the people to sit down. If you can't see, stand up. Or, God forbid, have fun. Just because you have a fancy press pass does not mean that suddenly you're too cool to be a fan. Don't you remember why you even started the hobby? Yeesh.

Dear Prima Donna Cosplay Elitists,

Okay, I'm all for making fun of bad cosplay (Hot Topic Chii? T-shirt ninja? Safety-pinned Tokyo Mew Mew cloth AKA tube-top?), but honestly, sometimes you people can be really mean and hurtful. If someone put a lot of effort into their costume, and they've put in the sweat and hours to sew their pride into every stitch and zipper, do we really need the LOLFATTY comments? Do we really need to slam them because one strand of their wig is at the wrong angle to their scalp? Maybe you're an amazing cosplayer and every outfit you touch transforms you into that character, but that doesn't give you the right to put others down so mercilessly. Alright, someone used satin wrong. It looks like ass, but you don't have to call them out on a forum and tell them how much they suck. Cosplaying is about being someone else, about loving a character so much you want to pay homage to them by transforming into them, about putting your body and skills on the line to show everyone how much you love your hobby. When did it become such a harsh playground where only the best, most perfect cosplayers were worthy of a friendly word? Instead of telling them how much they suck and how they should quit the hobby, maybe you should give them tips, or flashback to the first time you ever sat down at a sewing machine. For chrissakes, just play nice. There's nothing more depressing at a convention than seeing cosplayers sobbing because their hard work and egos were trampled to the ground by people they oftentimes look up to.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the ANN panel at Anime Expo, and to everyone who made my weekend a blast! This week we'll be looking at some new titles, some old ones, and some that I could've sworn I'd reviewed but apparently didn't. See you at Comic-Con, and welcome to Shelf Life.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days
ADV Films 90 min. 1/1 $29.98 07/12/2005

The first time I saw Voices of a Distant Star, I immediately fell in love with it. It captured something inside my heart and kept me mesmerized, even after repeat viewings. Naturally, I was nothing short of ecstatic when I heard about plans for a North American release of The Place Promised. Watching it last night, it brought back the same feeling of wonder and wide-eyed happiness that came to me when I watched Makoto Shinkai's first project. That man truly has a gift for taking common topics like romance and vows, and weaving dream-like stories unlike anything that's ever been done before. The story follows two middle-school boys who have spent their entire lives in the shadow of a mysterious tower erected decades ago. Built in secrecy by the Union during the Separation that cut Hokkaido off from the rest of the country, nobody from the Alliance knows what it does. Through hard work and plenty of scrimping, the boys begin to build an aircraft that will carry them to the tower—a dream and a promise they share with a sweet girl they both have a crush on. From start to finish, the movie is beyond touching. It's much slower than Voices, and it's got a few places where one might be apt to think, “Okay, there are some logic holes here,” but it's an experience not to be missed. With beautiful artwork, a lyrical soundtrack, and a laid-back pace that mimics the dreams it portrays, this is a must see for anyone who wants a beautiful, unique movie. I don't know where Shinkai gets all his ideas, but I'm thankful he wanted to share them with the world.

Related Products: If you haven't seen Voices of a Distant Star, you're missing out. The mood for both feels very much the same, and it uses the same themes.
Tastes Like: Lemon meringue. It melts in your mouth oh-so-slowly and by the time you get to the end of it, all that's left is a sweet aftertaste of lemony goodness.

Gunslinger Girl DVD 2 - Vita, Passion et Pistole
FUNimation 100 min. 2/? $29.98 07/12/2005

Henrietta is honestly the cutest thing on the planet. Heck, all of the kids in Gunslinger Girl are gut-splittingly adorable, which is why it's so painful to watch their lives get torn up over and over again. Every time the series introduces a new character, their story is told so poignantly and matter-of-factly that it's hard not to immediately be taken by them. With four episodes on this disc, the first two follow Henrietta and Rico on their respective missions. The next two take the time to introduce two new girls, Angelica and Elsa. Much like the first volume, a lot of the drama and emotional kickback from the series revolve around the relationship between the girls and their Handlers. The actual gun-toting and combat is fun to watch, but it takes a backseat to the girls, how they cope with their new lives, how they interact with each other, and how they've accepted their position in the world alongside their Brothers. I'm getting a little curious where the series is going to go from here, but until then, I'm perfectly happy with just the atmosphere of the show and the depth of all the characters. If there's one thing this series does so well, it's the way they can paint such complex characters within one episode. If you're looking for a moody, more heart-wrenching take on the girls with guns genre, Gunslinger Girls is perfect for you.

Related Products: For a moody story that includes another girl driven to be an assassin, check out Noir.
Tastes Like: White chocolate mocha. Classy, smooth, and with a kick of bitterness, every new cup is something amazing.

Fullmetal Alchemist DVD 2 - The Scarred Man of the East
FUNimation 100 min. 2/? $29.98 04/05/2005

If the viewers watching this on Cartoon Network haven't realized yet, let me repeat the memo: Fullmetal Alchemist is really depressing. It marinates in tragedy and sulks in pain, and it's near impossible to put down because you can't help but care what happens to the characters. Even just after one volume, the characters have already grown on me and episode after another, I can't wait to see how the brothers will handle the next set of hurdles. With the second volume, audiences are introduced to Scar for the first time, and through that, the conflict between a scientist named Tucker and his darling daughter Nina. Later, they run into a killer named Barry the Chopper who's out to create pain for the Elrics. What's nice about Fullmetal Alchemist is that it hits all the spots and satisfies almost any anime craving you could have. Backed by a rock-solid storyline and intriguing characters, it staples you to your chair and keeps you there until the next volume comes out. If you haven't seen this show yet, I implore you to give it a chance. This is one of the best series released to date.

Related Products: It's always so hard trying to find something akin to Fullmetal Alchemist, but if you're willing to swap alchemy for exorcism and give in to a tale about demons, Chrono Crusade often appeals to the same crowd.
Tastes Like: Fried chicken. Who doesn't like fried chicken? They're a staple of diets everywhere, and if they don't appeal to everyone in the world, they sure do appeal to most.

Shadow Star Narutaru DVD 1 + Artbox + T-Shirt
CPM 100 min. 1/4 $34.95 04/12/2005
Shadow Star Narutaru DVD 1
CPM 100 min. 1/4 $29.99 04/12/2005

What. Whatever opinion I may have had about this show changed after the third episode, and it kept screwing with my head every five minutes afterwards. No matter what: do not be fooled by the opening theme! It will make you think it's a kid's show! It will fill you with false happiness! That is all before people start stabbing each other with squid-shaped stars and talking about committing mass genocide with aforementioned creatures. Shiina is a plucky girl who discovered an odd star-shaped creature while she was visiting her grandparents. It has the ability to twist itself into odd shapes, function as a flying skateboard, and eye people strangely. Eventually, our heroine meets another girl with a similar star-thing, but delusions of having a cute and happy series are immediately dashed when she whips out a razor to slice at her wrists. Turns out, the star-things are dragons (or are related to dragons? The main story is still shrouded in secrecy at this point.) which not only have something to do with glowing children, but can also KILL PEOPLE VICIOUSLY. Problem is, all of these tidbits of story progression are rather poorly linked together, so rather than being a sinister story about death and mysterious entities, it's more of a W.T.F. fest. With the exception of Shiina (and the death stars), the characters are all worthy of a hearty slap or two in the face. Even so, this is something that needs to be experienced first-hand. It's still hazy what's going on in terms of story, but it's certainly screwed up enough that it deserves a closer inspection. All the technical aspects of it are mediocre, to be sure, but believe me, the whirlwind transformation between happy adventures to genocidal plotting isn't to be missed.

Related Products: Check out Alien Nine if you want more odd and screwy creature fun.
Tastes like: Peanut butter and bologna. Separately, they taste great. Together, it's a veritable mess, but try it and I bet you'll like it.

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OAV 3 DVD 1 - Here Comes the Bride
FUNimation 75 min. 1/2 $29.98 07/05/2005

Requisite comment: If you're a fan of the old Tenchi series, you will love, love, love this. The art has been kicked up five notches, the characters are back with their usual antics, and there're more ladies to stare at. If you're not a Tenchi fan, you won't find anything here that will appeal to you, because its mood and style of storytelling are exactly like the older shows. If you've never seen Tenchi before, you must watch the previous OVAs or you will have ZERO clue what's going on. In the 75 minutes allotted to the first few episodes, a valiant attempt is made to provide flashbacks and exposition to the earlier OVAs, but they really don't help at all. Not to mention how bad the old footage looks in comparison to the new, clean, modern video—a contrast that's almost jarring and unsettling. A few new characters are added to the mix this time around. Namely... Tenchi's fiancée. And his hot grandma. For the most part though, the pacing is extremely awkward. At times it's rushed, at times it jumps around, and there's plenty of places that just don't make any sense unless you blindly take them at face value.

Related Products: Aside from all the Tenchi stuff (which is a given), if you're looking for a more romantic show about non-human beauties, try an older classic: Ah! My Goddess.
Tastes Like: Leftover spaghetti. It still tastes good when you heat it up, but it gets kind of clumpy and tangled and it's not as good unless you have a craving for it.

Kyo Kara Maoh!: God(?) Save Our King! DVD 1
Geneon 125 min. 1/? $24.98 04/19/2005

Is it weird to describe Kyo Kara Maoh! as a reverse harem fantasy... starring a boy? It's almost like a strange amalgamation of Fushigi Yuugi and... well, Twelve Kingdoms, only much, much gayer. No, really. I was drowning in deliciously hot men and there were barely two women in sight the whole disc. Yuri is a normal high school student like any other, until the day he gets flushed down the toilet. Normally, this would lend itself only to a bath of floaters and tampons, but he gets jettisoned out into a different world. He's ushered off to see the royal family of the Demon Kingdom, which informs him that he is the Demon King. With the uncanny ability to grow hair like a banshee and the skills to manipulate water with the wiggle of a finger, he's also the object of lust of men and women everywhere... and engaged to a man. Of course, he can't enjoy his newfound powers because a war is on the horizon, and the only to prevent it is to go on a Legendary Quest! of epic proportions to retrieve some kind of magical sword. Oh, the silly lifestyles of the magical and famous. As goofy as the premise of the story is, I found myself having a great time with it. It's fun to watch a fantasy epic that can't take itself seriously longer than two minutes, and there's something so laughable about seeing long-haired men fawning over some kid in a thong. And did I mention there're beautiful men? Despite all the macho business of stroking baseball bats and wreaking havoc between (hot) demons and men, this show was totally tailored for girls, especially those who love a good slash. For sure, this show is not for everyone and anyone seeking a serious adventure will be sorely disappointed at all the jacking around that goes on in this series. Still, if yummy guys and a fun tale of war and magic is what's tickling your fancy this week, give Kyo Kara Maoh! a try.

Related Products: Demon-ness aside, for another swarm of pretty boys, don't forget to watch Fushigi Yuugi.
Tastes Like: Mike & Ikes. They're a great candy staple and just about everyone finds them tasty, but in a giant aisle full of candy, you're likely to pick something flashier and more unique.

Maburaho DVD 1 + Artbox
ADV Films 100min. 1/7 $39.98 04/19/2005
Maburaho DVD 1
ADV Films 100min. 1/7 $29.98 04/19/2005

I have such a love/hate relationship with this show. I hate the clichés, I hate most of the characters, I hate the surface premise of this show, but I love Yuna, I love how sweet she is, and I'm mildly interested in what's going to happen next. The basics: The worth of everyone is measured by how many times they can use magic. Our lame hero can only use it eight times until he withers away and dies. Because he's lame though, in true harem fashion, he suddenly becomes the point of affection for three of the school's most popular girls—because they want his genes. There. Why beat around the harem bush when you can just say all the girls want to jump his bone because they've been given orders to bear his children? The girls each play off very standard stereotypes: the quiet, shy girl who wants nothing more than to make the hero happy, the loud, boisterous cocktease who delights in rubbing her breasts against boys, and the sword-wielding ice queen who lives to uphold her family honor. It's the first archetype, Yuna, who really helps in carrying the show. The budding romance between her and The Pansy are cute and tender,and it drives some emotion into an otherwise shallow show. Sadly, that doesn't last for very long at a time. Every time the two share a quiet moment, in comes another obnoxious girl to kill the mood. As much as I loathed the clichés prevalent in the show, I'm a little curious as to what will happen next. It's hinted that our flimsy hero is a lot more stacked magically than he appears, and while it wouldn't be a huge shock if that were true, I'm still interested in just how they'll do it. So, while the show gets a huge thumbs down for all the overused harem clichés, it's great for all those fanservice lovers out there who don't mind wallowing through some crap to get to some pretty artwork.

Related Products: If you like Maburaho, you might want to check out Ai Yori Aoshi. Or, wait until someone releases Negima.
Tastes like: Circus Peanuts. They look really tasty in the package, but I challenge anyone to eat the whole bag without getting sick.

That's that; thanks for reading!

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