Shelf Life
Watered Down Weather

by Bamboo Dong,
I truly admire anyone who can comfortably live in a humid climate. I admire even more those who actually like it. After being in temporary scholarly exile on the East Coast for the fourth year in a row, I'm about ready to throw a temper tantrum. See, in Colorado, when there's water in the air, we call it rain. Typically, it falls down. After all, that's what water's supposed to do. None of this... floating in the sky business. Rain in Colorado was a glorious thing, with the cool water streaming from the skies, washing away all worries and troubles. Rain in New England is pouring miserable gobs of wetness in an already muggy sauna. (Don't even get me started on the summer I spent living in Galveston! I wanted to murder things and cook them for supper, I was so depressed.) How do you people do it? How do you stand the mugginess? How do you enjoy basking in moisture? You people are heroes amongst heroes.

Enjoy the slew of shelf worthy titles and welcome to Shelf Life.

Yugo the Negotiator DVD 2 - Pakistan: Honor
ADV Films 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 09/06/2005

This show is amazing, plain and simple. This is the kind of series that all future dramas should aspire to be—suspenseful, edgy, and absolutely gripping. There wasn't a single moment I wasn't waiting in trepidation, wanting to see what happened next, but stupefied in fear for a fictional character's life. TV dramas have been toying around with these kinds of shows for years, and it's about damned time anime stepped up to the plate. When the show left off, Yugo was trying to negotiate with the dacoit sheik, but had to first prove himself as a hero. Every viewer already knows he's going to pull through somehow, but there's absolutely no way of knowing how he'll do it until the second it happens. In shows of this nature, it's far too common for the hero to pull some stunt at the last second and explode in a rage of power and violence, and start kicking people left and right, but Yugo doesn't mess with any of that crap. He uses only his honor, perseverance, confidence, and pure guts, and that makes him more admirable than any super agent in the world. The show just wouldn't be the same without him, and it's watching him battle through his trials, suffer through bodily pain, outsmart his enemies, and outsmart the audience that makes the show as ferociously captivating as it is. People always ask me, “If you could recommend only one serious action show to an older teen or adult, what would it be?” Ever since watching the first disc, my answer has always been, without fail, “Yugo the Negotiator.” That answer hasn't changed.

Related Products: Someone mentioned in the forums last time that this show was similar to Master Keaton. While the atmosphere is different and it's much less serious than Yugo, it's still a neat story to go to if you're looking for a show about a dude traveling around the world solving problems.
Tastes Like: Bloody steak. Ohh, you know steak is more manly when it's dripping with blood.

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette
Geneon 110 min. 1/1 $29.98 09/13/2005

If someone had shaken me after I watched Petite Cossette and told me I had been asleep for two hours, I would have believed them. There's something about the haunting, surreal atmosphere of the show that leaves viewers in a trance. It doesn't really make sense the first episode, but once everything clicks into place, it's like being slapped with a cinderblock. Eiri is an art student who works at his grandfather's antique shop. He leads a normal life until he uncovers a goblet made of Venetian glass—that happens to house the spirit of a little girl named Cossette. As he slowly falls in love with her beauty, he becomes more and more estranged from society, until all the world's feces hits the fan. Suddenly, he's caught in a nightmarish spirit world where he's left to bodily atone for another man's sins, just to appease the one girl he ever loved. It's really just something that everyone should see for themselves. Petite Cossette lies somewhere between a tragic romance and a supernatural horror, but despite the trippy scenes and the gruesome images, it inches closer and closer to the former genre every minute. Even if the story doesn't immediately captivate you, the visuals will. With breathtaking animation and anal attention to detail, the gothic artwork is magnificent. Throw that on top of one of Yuki Kajiura's trademark eerie chanting tracks, and you've got something that will tickle all of your senses. Especially with Halloween coming up, this is a must see.

Related Products: The bloodspatter and surreal imagery can only be matched by X/1999, but the love story reminded me a lot of "Magnetic Rose" from Memories.
Tastes Like: Amarone. Kind of earthy and bittersweet, this wine will please you and confuse you all at the same time.

Planetes DVD 2
Bandai 125 min. 2/? $29.98 08/09/2005

It takes a damned good series to be able to have an entire episode filled with grown men running around pretending to be ninjas be deep and meaningful. It takes a show like Planetes to show people that good storytelling doesn't have to have outlandish archetypes and super heroes. The only thing you need is real people with real emotions, because in the end, that's the only thing that real life is about. Planetes serves up another five amazing episodes on the second disc, following the different characters as they work through the problems in their life. From love to death and the loss of loved ones, every scene is another powerful testament to the working lives of the common man. Seriously, this show is fantastic, and it would be a crime to pass this up. It manages to dole out plenty of serious scenes and tragic themes without becoming steeped in drama or angst. Like the episode about middle-aged men running around yelling ninja moves. It was hilarious, it was goofy, but it worked out so well. If you're sick of fluff, definitely watch Planetes.

Related Products: Planetes may be salarymen in space, but try Salaryman Kintaro for salarymen... well, on Earth.
Tastes Like: Baked potato. Such a commonplace staple of restaurants everywhere, but who doesn't love a good baked potato?

Kodocha DVD 2 - Hayama Hijinks
FUNimation 105 min. 2/? $29.98 10/4/2005

If Kodocha was a creative well, it would be overflowing with originality and spontaneity. There isn't a single drop of predictability in Kodocha, and that's what makes it so amazing. Even to the most jaded of viewers who have strolled around the anime block half a dozen times, the series will still find a way to captivate you with its fresh content and surprises. The first volume delighted me with its hilarity and antics, but the second disc absolutely bowled me over. It's surprisingly serious, and balances out the light-hearted scenes with the perfect amount of drama and emotion. Sana is intent on breaking past Hayama's stoic exterior, and she'll do anything she can to nose into his private life. When she discovers the source of his cold-heartedness, she vows to try to fix it by working hard in the drama she's being cast in. It tells you something about the production staff and Daichi's firm grasp on portraying human emotions when you're watching an animated drama and you completely forget that you're watching two-dimensional characters—acting in a drama! Everything was so vivid and powerful in the context of the episode that I must confess, I shed exactly two tears. Kodocha may have set itself up to be a goofy comedy, but it's obvious that it has more serious things in store. Thankfully, it keeps itself from being too overbearing by lightening itself up with just the right touch of humor; it's that balance that makes this series so easy to breeze through. If you haven't picked up this series yet, you're really missing out.

Related Series: Looking for another good shojo series? Try Marmalade Boy.
Tastes Like: Fruit by the Foot. Wacky flavors, infantile jokes on every wrapper, but seriously good taste.

Koi Kaze DVD 2- Budding Attraction
Geneon 125 min. 2/3 $29.98 05/31/2005

Without a doubt, Koi Kaze is one of the most poignant romances to come out in recent years, even though it portrays a heavily unconventional, and even unacceptable, love story. Everything about it is executed well, from its subdued artwork, to its soft instrumental tracks, to even its slow, dream-like pace. It's that touch of seriousness that makes it so easy to see past the fact that the budding romance at hand is between a brother and a sister. As time wears on, the harsh acceptance of Koshiro's feelings for his sister finally hits him, moving him between pangs of guilt, resentment, and jealousy. At the same time, she's beginning to realize her love for him too, and it's this limbo of neither wanting to confess their shameful emotions that drives this disc. Part of what makes Koi Kaze work so well is this central conflict and the taboos around it. Tell anyone unfamiliar with the show the premise, and they're likely to respond with, “Incest? GROSS,” but it's nearly impossible to watch the show and feel anything but sympathy for the characters. Maybe it's the soft, tip-toe way the series is presented, or just the earnestness of the two leads, but the series makes you suspend any notions about incest and see the story for what it is—two siblings who are falling in love with each other, with no chance of anyone understanding their predicament except each other. For anyone tired of all the wacky romances with the angry harems of women, or misunderstanding after misunderstanding, this is definitely something to check out. Stripped of everything but underlying emotions, Koi Kaze is the perfect romance for anyone who can accept the show for what it's trying to portray.

Related Products: The guy and girl in Kare Kano don't share any familial DNA, but it's still a bittersweet story about romance.
Tastes Like: Peas and carrots. They go together surprisingly well, but no one will deny that it tastes kind of funny.

Godannar DVD 1 - Engage & Destroy + Artbox
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $39.98 10/04/2005
Godannar DVD 1 - Engage & Destroy
ADV Films 125 min. 1/7 $29.98 10/04/2005

It's really hard to make an inventive robot show these days, and sadly, Godannar sinks into the quagmire of mediocre attempts. There really is only so many ways you can have genius pilots jump into a robot, beat down mysterious invaders from space, and still make it home before dinner gets cold. The only semi-fresh thing you can do is show more tits, more ass, and try to give your robots breasts, too, and that's what Godannar ends up doing. At the same time, it tries to combine aspects of a mecha show with a relationship comedy, but what comes out is just so flat that it doesn't succeed at either. Anna and Goh are a normal newlywed couple, only Anna's mom is in charge of the Dannar base in town, and Goh is a legendary pilot. Intent on being a pilot herself, Anna spends a good part of the first disc trying to convince her husband that she has what it takes to be on the front line, all while trying to cope with the fact that her man is kind of a dick. That's pretty much the only part of the first disc that actually makes any sense. During all of this bickering, there's apparently some kind of alien invasion going on. Angel-esque monsters called Mimetic Beasts are attacking Japan, but nobody bothers explaining what they are, where they're coming from, how they function, what their goal is, or even how they're supposed to be vulnerable against the Dannars. To be fair, all giant robot shows like to push these details under the rug, but at least they make up some half-assed excuse for their storylines. Godannar doesn't even bother. It's torn between focusing on Anna and Goh and all the love triangles that are bound to pop up, and the giant alien infestation problem they have, but all they end up with is a really mediocre show with repetitive fight scenes, look-alike characters, bouncing breasts, bare butts, and an extensive palette of camel-toes. It's too early to tell if the show will actually have a point or not, but for now, it sinks under the sea of all the robot shows out there.

Related Products: Big robots and lots of fanservice? Hello Gravion!
Tastes Like: Rainbow sprinkles. So many colors, but it all tastes exactly the damned same! Yeah!

Yumeria DVD 1 - Into the Dreamscape
ADV Films 100 min. 1/3 $29.98 10/11/2005

It's sad when the best part about a show is seeing a male homeroom teacher dressed as an S&M queen. Luckily, once you realize that you can't take Yumeria seriously, it suddenly becomes more watchable, more enjoyable, and much less painful. It doesn't dull how terrible the story is, or how horrendously generic the characters are, but it does make it possible to actually sit back, turn off your brain, and laugh at a few of the gags. That's the only real saving grace of the show, which tries too hard to be a little bit of everything. Part magical girl, part fantasy, part harem, part sentai—Yumeria is everything rolled up into one, only it doesn't accomplish a damned thing. The cast of characters is a gallery of anime's most archetypal characters, with the shy girl who wants to screw the main guy, the little jailbait girl who thinks she wants to screw the main guy, but probably doesn't know what it means, the irritating girl who only says her bloody name over and over again... this list could go on, but it's 9:1 odds that you could guess them yourself. Story-wise, it's a wreck. Some milquetoast loser finds out that every time he dreams, he gets pulled into some dream world. One by one, he pulls in a bunch of girls around him who transform into superfighters so they can shoot weird monsters. Nobody knows why this is possible or why it even matters, and the only person who does know won't bother explaining. Frankly, it's just not a good show. If you're willing to completely ignore the failed attempt at a storyline, the show can actually be mildly entertaining. Really though, with as half-assed and “hur hur, let's try to be original by making fun of clichés!” as this show is, you can do better for yourself.

Related Products: This show reminded me of a strange mix of Cyber Team in Akihabara and Sister Princess, which can never be a good thing.
Tastes Like: Flavored water. Just because it's flavored doesn't make it any less water.

That's it for this week; thanks for reading!

discuss this in the forum (37 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

Shelf Life homepage / archives