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Shelf Life
Counting Fairies

by Bamboo Dong,
Between studying for the GRE general test, and the GRE subject test, and dealing with schoolwork, I was able to save a bit of my sanity by indulging in pumpkin carving. Truly, it's one of the things that I look forward to every year. When else can you whittle away at vegetables and set flaming gourds on your front porch without the neighbors thinking you're mad? After watching Kakurenbo two weeks ago, I was so inspired by the creepy battery kids that I decided to carve out a fox mask, first with just the glowing outlines, then with the actual mask shaved out. Not exactly a masterpiece, but there's something infinitely satisfying about squeezing a handful of pumpkin guts and playing with a mini-saw.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo DVD 1 + Artbox
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $39.98 10/25/2005
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo DVD 1
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 10/25/2005

Gankutsuou is an exquisite feast, both aesthetically and mentally. From its uniquely experimental visuals to the lush, rumbling voice of the Count that oozes warmly into the ear in Japanese, English, and French, this series will tickle every sense and leave viewers gasping for more. Based off Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, this series tells a futuristic love story about love and vengeance. Only this time, the Count travels in a spaceship and is rumored to be a vampire. He makes the acquaintance of Albert de Morcerf, a young man who finds himself intrigued by the aristocrat's mysterious air. The series doesn't follow the story of the novel exactly (obviously, since at last recollection, there were no blue-skinned vampires in Le Comte, nor was there interplanetary travel), but the narrative it tells is fascinating nevertheless. The dialogue is strong, the character conflicts are compelling, and the pacing is perfect. Visually, one of the first things viewers will notice is the animation. The coloring is done almost entirely in textures, and when the characters move, the textures stay put, making it almost seem like the characters are gliding through a bright Rococo tapestry. It's a bit shocking at first, but it suits the atmosphere so well that it soon becomes an irreplaceable aspect of the whole experience. Even for viewers who have never heard of Dumas before, Gankutsuou is an absolute must-see, both for its extravagant execution and its robust storyline. Likewise, fans of the novel will simply adore this futuristic retelling. Do yourself a favor and check this out.

Related Products: For more cool futuristic retellings of classic stories, don't forget to try Samurai 7.
Tastes Like: Suisse La Bleue. Are those shapes floating in front of your eyes? Maybe, but goodness, it's so crystal clear and sweet that everything just seems to fit into place.

Bottle Fairy DVD 1 - Spring & Summer
Geneon 90 min. 1/? $24.98 11/22/2005

Pardon me while I go inject myself with insulin. This show is so incredibly cute it gives Snow Fairy Sugar a run for its money. Only, it doesn't actually have a point, so in that regards, it's a lot more like Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses. The series doesn't bother with any back story or explanations, and opts to just drop viewers right into the middle of a bowl of syrupy cuteness. The story stars four gachapon-sized fairies who spend their days indulging in make-believe fantasies of how they imagine the outside world to be. All of the scenarios take place on a high school boy's desk, but with their creativity and their ability to magic props and scenery backdrops out of midair, they can do anything from roll around in a classroom or go trekking through a jungle. Sometimes the episodes drag on a little too long, but the girls are so shamelessly adorable that it's hard not to have a good time. The fact that all of the situations they land themselves in are a product of their imagination and creativity just makes it all the more quaint and cute. This show certainly doesn't require any brain power to enjoy, but if viewers just want to plunk down and watch wide-eyed girls totter around being silly, this is a fun catch.

Related Products: Mini-girls doing big magical things at a cuteness level of at least 14? Better make it the Adventures of the Mini Goddesses.
Tastes Like: Pixie Sticks. Pastel-colored, and great for that necessary jolt of jolly saccharine.

Princess Tutu DVD 1 – Marchen
ADV Films 125 min. 1/6 $29.98 01/25/2005

Without fail, Princess Tutu will make even the most stationary of people dance around their room. Laden with beautiful music from many of the most inspirational ballet scores ever written, Princess Tutu brings beauty to a stale genre. Set in a town where stories and reality melt together, the series flows like a ballet, broken up only by comic relief that gets less funny every time it happens. Duck is a... well, duck, who has the ability to turn into a girl, who can then transform into Princess Tutu, a prima ballerina who must collect shards of Prince Mythos' broken heart to restore emotions to his cold façade. Of course, every story must have enemies, and in this series, they come in the form of a bastard named Fakir and a prissy girl named Rue who won't play seconda to anyone. Borrowing pieces from works like Giselle, The Nutcracker Suite, and Swan Lake, and expressing itself through fluid dances, the lyrical storytelling executes like a ballet. Sadly, as novel as it is, it still can't escape from the usual pitfalls of magical girl shows, like repetitive plots and monsters-of-the-week. Sure, it pushes the story ahead in each episode, but for the first disc, it just doesn't get very far. For those who like such things, though (and many do), it's a breathtaking new way to present a tired genre. It certainly makes every other magical girl show dull in comparison, and I'm fully prepared to be blown away by the second volume.

Related Products: Princess Tutu stands a world above most magical girl shows, but there's plenty of item-collecting fun to be had in the wonderfully entertaining Card Captor Sakura.
Tastes Like: Strawberry gelato. Elegant, succulent, and much classier than your typical ice cream.

Cowboy Bebop Remix DVD 1
Bandai 125 min. 1/? $29.98 09/13/2005

I'd forgotten how fun it was to watch Cowboy Bebop. It had been so many years of just talking about it with friends and on forums that I was filled with a giddy joy watching it again. In fact, it's about time that people revisited this series and popped in a few of their favorite episodes (like my personal favorite, “Ballad of Fallen Angels,” which is located on the first disc). Of course, that leads to a problem with deciding where to place this disc in Shelf Life. The only thing that's changed from the original release is the addition of a shiny slip cover, and 5.1 audio. Now, for the people who have 5.1 setups, and love the series enough to buy it again, this may be worth investing in, but truthfully, most of the people who love this series already own it, and the ones who love it enough to buy it again... probably don't have 5.1 systems, and vice versa. The menu may have been revamped a little (woooaaah!!), but the video is still the same, and really... you're just paying $30 for better audio. I will say this: if you haven't bought this series yet, you really should. And if you're going to start collecting it now, you may as well get Remix, because it's the same price as the original discs. It's a fine series, as anyone will tell you, but if you already own a copy, it's probably not worth your money buying it again. So with the mixture of an incredibly entertaining show, and an unimpressive re-release, the first volume of Remix is getting cast into Rental Shelf limbo.

Related Products: You know, I've never really understood why people compared Cowboy Bebop to Trigun, since the bounty hunting is a bit... reversed, but the atmosphere and notoriety of the shows are very much similar.
Tastes Like: Corn dogs. They're really good and when you get cravings for them, boy, do you get hit hard, but they're really just hot dogs with bling.

Grenadier DVD 1 – Service With a Smile + Artbox + Figure
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/3 $34.95 06/28/2005
Grenadier DVD 1 - Service With a Smile
Media Blasters 100 min. 1/3 $34.95 06/28/2005

Watching sweet girls whip out big guns never gets old. Sadly, watching them load bullets from the crevice between their breasts (while much cooler!) does eventually get old. Fortunately for a show like Grenadier, it makes a valiant attempt to downplay the fanservice and instead attempts to liven up all the dull moments with gunfire. How the heroine manages to get full aiming maneuverability by shooting with her trigger hand behind her back, I'll never know, but all that matters is that she's fully capable of popping several caps into the bad guys' asses. Set in an era of kings and lords, people are living in fear of “Senshi,” those who know how to use firearms. In the middle of it all is a perverted swordsman and a gun-toting babe who packs a killer shot, but refuses to deliver more than a minor wound. It's somewhat entertaining to see what each new trigger-happy episode will bring, but the novelty of watching a girl twirl around and retrieve bullets from her bosom wears off after awhile. Luckily, there's a hint that Something Sinister™ is going on involving worldwide conspiracies and Good Guys Gone Bad™, but there probably won't be much light shed on it until later episodes. For now, Grenadier is a fun romp onto the well-traversed path of gun shows. It may err a little bit on the clichéd side, but until you get bored, you can at least watch her breasts jiggle.

Related Items: Maybe it's the setting, or maybe it's the sweet blonde girls, but ths really made me want to go watch Scrapped Princess. For more gun-toting babe action though, check out one of my favorites, Mezzo.
Tastes Like: Belgium Waffles. Their sweet crunch is great every time, but they always get boring halfway through.

DearS DVD 2 - Second Contact
Geneon 75 min. 2/? $24.98 10/18/2005

While the first volume of DearS was mostly cute and a tiny bit stupid, the second volume is mostly stupid and only a little bit cute. Stupid? How so, you ask? It's stupid in the sense that it doesn't even bother sparing a few extra brain cells in trying to make the show better. Instead, it just takes the same jokes and gags from the first volume and doubles it up again without advancing the storyline. Once again, the teacher does something obnoxious and squeezes her breasts. Once again, Miu makes a big deal of Ren being inferior, and once again, there are hints that something sinister is going on, but with the testicle-minded way the show is progressing, no one would be surprised if Ren's Secret Defect is that she hasn't been properly programmed to deliver a blow job. The only thing that makes this different from the first four episodes is the addition of Takeya's little sister, who embodies the same recycled Jealous Sister With Brother-Complex character that's used so often. Altogether, this was just a very disappointing disc. After the mildly pointless, but cute and entertaining, first volume, it was a big let-down to see such a poorly written set of episodes. The story has perhaps taken two steps back, the characters have been thrown back into the wash, and the cuteness has taken a back seat to irritating character quirks. I still have hopes for this series, but my optimism is sinking. Saving grace? The show prompted me to make melon bread.

Related Products: As far as horny teachers go, the woman from Mahoromatic was oh-so-innocent in comparison.
Tastes like: I wonder what curry bread tastes like. Is there really curry inside? Doesn't that make it soggy?

Black Gate
Kitty Media 60 min. 1/? $29.98 9/27/2005

I'm not quite sure why the girls on the front cover have their clothes torn. They always seemed so willing in the series to strip it off of their own accord. Average student Kosaka led a humdrum life until he not only learned that there was a Stargate-type apparatus behind his school that led to another world—but more importantly, he could get ass from any woman in his life (except the lesbians), a privilege he avails himself of time and time again even though he has a girlfriend. But, why bother just having sex with your girlfriend when you can do her sister, her friends, and random strangers! Unlike a lot of hentai out there, Black Gate actually has a semi-intelligible storyline, but there's an infuriating amount of plot holes and inconsistencies. Okay, there's a gate between two worlds and there's a small group of girls dedicated to guarding it. That part is fine. What really got my goat were the visuals. The artwork is very cute and mildly scintillating, but what sends this spiraling into Perishable is the lack of consistency throughout the whole thing. One of the sisters has a tattoo on her right breast, but within a two-minute time frame, the tattoo switched to her left tit, then disappeared completely, then popped up on her right mammary, then jumped to the left again. Oh, and for the record, anyone who can get a chubby two seconds after blowing a load is a god. Bah. Honestly, as far as hentai goes, this is quite good, in terms of the sex scenes and the feeble attempt at a storyline, but there are just so many inconsistencies and plot holes that it made me wonder if the creators even gave two stinks about it. At least there was a giant labia wall relief.

Related Products: As far as hentai with dark storylines go, Bible Black was better.
Tastes Like: Ranch dressing. I challenge you to sit there and really examine the taste of it with your tongue and tell me what it's made out of, without looking at the bottle. It doesn't taste like what it's made out of, does it?

That's it for now. Join me again next time, provided I'm alive after this week. Thanks for reading!

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