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Shelf Life
Children of the Con

by Bamboo Dong,
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to Anime Iowa. Before I got there, I was only expecting three things: cows, crop circles, and farmers named Jeb, having never set foot in Des Moines before. Man alive, was I wrong! Not only did the restaurant a block away from the hotel have the world's best (blue) cream soda, but Anime Iowa was also one of the funnest conventions I'd ever been to. It's been ages since I'd gone to a small convention, and I'd forgotten how blissfully relaxing it was to just bum around a hotel, talk with random people at four in the morning about ramen, and realize again how darned cool it is to have an entire hotel filled with people who all have the same hobby as you.

The only thing that made the whole experience better was the fact that all the convention attendees and staffers were incredibly sweet. Over the years, one or two of the smaller conventions I've gone to have slowly started stocking themselves with bitchy staffers and power-tripping bastards (okay, okay, in the minority, but boy, do they stink up a con!), so it was amazingly refreshing to bask in the friendly crowd of Des Moines. The Hotel Fort Des Moines, or Ho-Fo-De-Mo, as lovingly called by the attendees, is incredibly pimp and posh, and boy, did I feel like a princess for a few nights.

I've been to dozens of fun and wonderful conventions in the past several years, but I never expected to stumble upon such a jewel in the middle of cow country. If any of y'all ever find yourself in the Midwest, hit up Anime Iowa—there's no crop circles, but there's plenty of friendly people who, I'm sure, could be enticed to go make some with you.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Area 88 DVD 1 - Treacherous Skies + Artbox
ADV Films 75 min. 1/? $39.98 07/19/2005
Area 88 DVD 1 - Treacherous Skies
ADV Films 75 min. 1/? $29.98 07/19/2005

When it comes to aerial combat, Area 88 smokes every other show out of the clouds. I haven't felt this kind of exhilaration from airplanes since Top Gun, and boy, was it a hell of a rush. The animation was amazing, the artwork was incredibly detailed, and the sound effects... ! Everything was top notch, from the jet engines to that pshoooooooooooh noise that makes movies about planes so damned cool. I was so blinded by the production that it wasn't till the disc was over when I realized that I wasn't exactly sure what the hell was going on. Area 88 is a mercenary base made up of pilots whose salaries depend on the stuff they shoot down or blow up. The only way to get out of the base is to either fulfill a three year contract, or pay a $1.5 million breach of contract fee. With a 20% death rate per mission, everyone wants to get out as soon as they can... but the show never really explains why they're there to begin with. Did someone forget to mention how terrible their workers benefits were? Considering they pay for their own planes and fuel, something tells me they're not getting dental, either. In the middle of it all is Akuma, a battlefield photographer who has been sent to get a shot that “only [he] can get,” and Shin, an ace Japanese pilot who is virtually untouchable. So far, with only three episodes down the hatch, there isn't much of a story yet—only motives, ambitions, and tales of the everyday struggles of the pilots' dangerous lives. Even so, the experience makes the current lack of story seem completely trivial. The action sequences are thrilling and wonderful, the characters' lives are gritty and fascinating, and for the most part, you'll be so awed by everything on the screen that you won't care about anything else. For planes, pain, and a nasty kick of adrenaline, mark this down.

Related Products: For some reason I can't explain at all, this show makes me want to watch more Yugo the Negotiator. It may be the strong pull of the character drama, but if you like shows about grown-ups, watch Yugo. I can't recommend that show enough.
Tastes Like: Blue cream soda!! Cream soda is a staple of the American Beverage Selection, but put a new spin on it, and I'm all over it.

Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok DVD 1 - God & Detectives + Artbox
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $39.98 10/18/2005
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok DVD 1 - God & Detectives
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $29.98 10/18/2005

Attention to all girls (or guys) who have a predilection for little boys: your shouta-fest is here. I'm not saying it's a bad thing; I'm just calling it as I see it, and I see an ever-growing throng of little boys that doesn't seem like it'll slow down anytime soon. Norse god Loki's life was torn into pieces when he was banished from the land of the gods by Odin, the Allfather. Doomed to wander amongst humans as a child with limited powers, Loki makes ends meet by running a detective agency. Business is slow until a girl shows up asking about a creepy doll with demonic eyes; after that, things get a little nuts. Now, more and more pint-sized gods are appearing out of nowhere, and a good portion of them are after his life. The first few episodes are a tad bland, but I have a suspicion that things won't stay that way for very long. For now, it's just a matter of letting Loki and his crew avoid possessed objects and spirits while more gods pop up, but each episode reveals a little bit more about Loki's predicament and raises more questions. Why was he banished from his home? How will he get back? Why is Odin trying to kill him? None of these questions are really explored in depth, but they definitely keep the story moving forward. Nothing really jumped out at me in the first disc, but I'm definitely intrigued. At this point, I don't think I can live the rest of my life until I figure out what's going to happen next! Whether you care about Norse mythology, or if you like shows about the supernatural, or if you just like little boys, give this a chance. I have a feeling it'll get addictive soon.

Related Products: In terms of big guys trapped in little boys' bodies solving mysteries, this reminded me a lot of Case Closed, only much more steeped in mythology.
Tastes Like: Clam chowder. It's really a standard sort of soup, but the more you eat it, the more you can't stop yourself until you're stuffed.

Panda-Z: The Robominal Edition DVD 1
Bandai 30 min. 1/? $19.98 09/27/2005
Panda-Z DVD 1
Bandai 30 min. 1/? $14.98 09/27/2005

$3 for every 5 minutes of laughs? I can dig it. Despite its kooky, pointless nature and its cartoonish art, Panda Z is pure awesome. Each episode is roughly five minutes long, with most of that time being taken up by the opening and ending themes. That's probably a good thing, because if the episodes were given more time, they would probably get really old, really fast. As it is, they already get a little dull after the first 45 seconds or so. After that, it's a couple of minutes of repeated jokes and humdrum variations on the gags. Luckily, the punch lines are always hysterical, so it's always worth it in the end. It helps that all the characters (and the scenarios) are incredibly cute. The vague idea of the story is that the Robonimal World is being attacked by the Warunimal Empire, so when the critters aren't busy playing poker or eating batteries, they're watching cute little Pan-Taron fight equally cute robotic bovine in his Panda-Z. These shorts obviously don't require much brain power to consume, but they're really fun for what they are. Still, the jokes do drag on a bit long, and if you're watching the show by yourself, it gets a little tiresome. The best thing to do is gather around a group of friends and watch the absurdity together; it's almost guaranteed that you'll have a good time.

Related Products: This is like something that should be on Adult Swim, only it doesn't cuss enough. If you managed to like something like Super Milk-Chan, then you'll eat this up with a platinum spoon.
Tastes Like: Hi-C Syrup. It's probably carcinogenic in large doses, but for all those who have ever had it, you'll agree that it gives you a really strange high that's partly sugar, and partly pain.

Hoop Days DVD 2 - Zone 2
Bandai 125 min. 2/? $29.98 08/23/2005

Watching Hoop Days makes me long for my Initial D days. Maybe it's the Eurobeat that plays furiously in the background every time something exciting happens, or maybe it's the single-minded devotion the show has for one sport. Maybe it's just the incredibly detailed animation that shows up during a match that quickly fades to sheer crap once the focus is shifted onto more mundane things, like people. And life. Despite how campy the show can be at times, it's actually one of the most eagerly anticipated titles on my personal wait list. Sure, it's predictable, silly, and sometimes irritating, but it's also incredibly fun. Fujiwara's getting a hard time from the seniors who are still bitter that he got them disqualified from the Inter-High tournament a year ago. Meanwhile, even more drama is going on with the girls' team, which is getting ready for the Inter-High regionals. The day before their first game, Mutsumi catches a girl coming out of Fujiwara's house. True to anime stereotypes, she amplifies this misunderstanding into some giant ordeal and instead of just getting on with life, she mopes around like a useless rag for the better part of two episodes. Some characters deserved to be strangled through the TV—she is one of them. Truthfully, character drama isn't one of Hoop Days' strong points. Everyone is great at expressing their love for basketball, their desire to play the game, and just how much they'll sacrifice to play, but when it comes to real life interaction with each other, things fall short. The conflicts between the senior boys mirrors that of the boys team in the first volume, and it already looks like there are more riffs on old formulas in the upcoming matches. Still, the basketball aspect of it is a blast to watch, and the oonts-oonts-oonts beat of the music in the background is enough to get anyone riled up. Hoop Days is definitely a good title to relax with.

Related Products: While the story of a team trying to reach finals can't help but remind someone of Princess Nine, Hoop Days actually reminds me a lot more of Initial D, from its silly CG-randomness all the way to its Eurobeat.
Tastes Like: Giant swirled lollipops. Nobody can take you seriously when you're licking on one of those babies, but they look so damned appetizing every time you pass a stand selling them!

Ghost Talker's Daydream
Geneon 100 min. 1/1 $29.98 08/23/2005

It's refreshing to see a show that can flash nipples and ass every few minutes, but not fixate on them. It's even more refreshing to have them manage to weave it into the storyline without displaying anything truly offensive. Having honestly never heard of Ghost Talker's Daydreams until it showed up on my door, I had zero idea what to expect. The dominatrix on the cover didn't provide any clarity, nor did the title, but surprisingly, it's a somewhat straightforward series. Misaki is a spirit medium, someone who can communicate with ghosts and act as their voice. She's given assignments every now and then to help flush out a ghost or help figure out the truth behind a death. It's a noble job, but it doesn't pay much, which is why her “real” job is working as a dominatrix. She hates the job, but she can't seem to shake herself from the clothes; apparently, leather bustiers and thongs are the It outfit in ghostbusting, even if it means having old men gawk at you all day. The concept of this OVA may not be anything new, but it provides for a very entertaining backbone that the characters can parade around in. All of the characters have their own distinct personalities, and while the eerie ghost business takes up most of the show, it's the way everyone interacts with the situations that makes it so entertaining. The show is a bit standard (minus the bondage queen bit—you won't see Vampire Princess Miyu whipping people anytime soon!), but the atmosphere is intense and the characters are a blast, so check it out. In the meantime, I'll be moping that they didn't make more episodes.

Related Products: Vampire Princess Miyu in leather.
Tastes Like: Hint of Lime Tostitos. Standard, but with a twist!

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - Innocence Music Video Anthology Special
Bandai 42 min. 1/1 $34.98 07/11/2005
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - Innocence Music Video Anthology
Bandai 42 min. 1/1 $24.98 07/11/2005

Even if a team of dead filmmakers were given $20 billion by the government, I don't think they could have made a more boring video. Unless you eat, breathe, and sleep Innocence and have an Oshii PJs and panty set, there's not a single reason why you should buy this disc. For some reason, I had really high hopes for this disc. With the gorgeous animation and jaw-dropping artwork that graces Innocence, and the hauntingly beautiful music that swims through it, I thought for sure that this would be a marriage of sound and vision worthy of toppling Interstella 5555. I envisioned an exciting display of the movie's best scenes, with guns synchronized to drum beats, shattering glass and basset hounds flashing at every strike of the timpani. What I got was a random sample of background pans from the movie. Now, the music (while gorgeous) is slow enough as is. Watching cameras slink down an empty street on top of that makes it nearly unbearable. The least they could've done was change the shots every few seconds, or at least show a person walking down a hallway. Alas, the only time they changed things up was to show pretentious psychobabble on a black background. As it is, the best things about the entire disc are the bonus videos: a tribute to Batou's dog, and a slightly less boring video of some character's abandoned house, with shots that change whenever a drum beats. If you want to celebrate the movie's music, buy the CD and just put the film on mute. I guarantee that would be more exciting than this travesty of a DVD.

Related Products: As deathly pretentious as the movie was, it's a million times better than this. Better yet, go watch Stand Alone Complex, and pick up those really freaking sweet Official Log books they're releasing.
Tastes Like: Tylenol PM. Once you p— *snore*

Sakura Wars: Ecole de Paris DVD
FUNimation 125 min. 1/1 $29.98 07/05/2005

Given the lead character Erica's penchant for smacking her head on pipes and walls every few minutes, it's quite possible that she penned the script for this OVA. Its lack of coherency can only be explained by severe concussion or plain bad writing, but I really want to give the production staff the benefit of the doubt. Somewhere between the unholy mix of 3D CG artwork and 2D flat animation, there's a random jumbling of three episodes so random and disjointed that the only people who could possibly understand it are people who have spent every waking hours of their life analyzing all the Sakura Taisen videogames from start to finish. Supposedly, the episodes regale the quest of the Paris Fighting Troupe to stop evil. The problem is, people who haven't played the games will have zero clue who any of the characters are. They're never introduced, never expanded upon, and the last episode even goes so far as to randomly magic a girl out of thin air. Heck, the OVA even brings up some evil two-faced joker-type enemy, whose presence is never explained, resolved, or even fought. And if that doesn't make matters convoluted enough, the second episode is the most bizarre tangent ever dredged up. It wasn't until I watched the extras on the disc did I find out that it took place before the game, and somehow, it was supposed to serve as a bridge to the last episode. I don't know. I absolutely have no clue what went on in this disc. Even if you're a diehard Sakura Taisen fan, you'd be well advised to skip this. The music is deliciously wonderful and the art is oftentimes exquisite, but the story has the coherency, continuity, and time progression of a drunkard reciting Machiavelli. Don't bother.

Related Products: The other Sakura Taisen shows are so much better, but if you really want to see people get rid of evil spirits in the pre-Depression era, pick up Chrono Crusade instead.
Tastes Like: Mystery meat. What the heck is it? Only the butcher knows, but he's dead, chopped up, and stored in the freezer.

Thanks for reading! See you next time as we explore the wonderful world of gore, maids, porn, and all of the above rolled up into one.

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