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Shelf Life
Study of Modern Social Homogeneity

by Bamboo Dong,
Sometimes I wonder if the kids of today have changed from how they were ten years ago, or if it's just me that's grown up a little. When I go to the mall, I'm surprised to see ten year old girls with hundreds of dollars to spend on whatever clothes they want. When I was their age, I was lucky to have $10 at my disposal every month, and that was after mowing the lawn and raking leaves every week. It still surprises me to see them chattering on cell phones while they're walking with their friends, all wearing designer-brand clothing inspired by the latest Parisian fad (the woman, not the city), and with enough makeup on all of them to not only look in their mid-twenties, but also look the same. Were the girls around me the same way when I was growing up and I just never noticed? Or do I just live in totally different times? Have kids changed, or have parents changed?

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Genshiken DVD 2
Media Blasters 125 min. 2/? $29.95 09/13/2005

If Genshiken were juiced into a pot of ink and splattered onto a pane of celluloid, the resulting blob would be a Rorschach that looked suspiciously like a self-portrait to any hardcore anime fan who looked at it. Whether you're the type to pour your soul into building a Gundam model, or someone who wouldn't miss their favorite show for the world, there's some part of Genshiken that will draw you in and remind you of yourself. There's trouble brewing at the club room when they find out they're going to get shut down! Luckily... they have Saki. For as much as she loathes otaku, she's the only one with the balls to stand up to the student council vice president and speak out for the club. Then it's a springtime lesson about model building. Even with all that nerdy stuff going on though, it's great to see Saki emerging as one of the most important characters. Her character is so full of contradictions and internal conflict that her daily life is almost heartbreaking; even though she's making a serious effort to understand their hobbies (something she wouldn't be caught dead admitting), the others can't help but shun her as an outsider. In a market full of the make-believe and the overdramatic, it's refreshing to see something like Genshiken. It's realistic, funny, and something every fan should put on their Must See list.

Related Products: Don't forget to check out Comic Party for more otaku fun!
Tastes Like: Hufu. Not that I've had it before, mind you, but if something reminds you of yourself, then wouldn't it tastes like your own flesh too?

Gunslinger Girl DVD 3 - The Silence of the Stars
Funimation 100 min. 3/3 $29.98 09/06/2005

No matter how sinister they try to make things, no matter how much bloodshed they infuse into it, Gunslinger Girls can never be anything but beautiful. The last volume of this elegant story turns its focus onto the relationship between the girls and their handlers. Touching upon themes of life and death, it explores the biggest danger to the cyborgs—the unrequited affection they feels towards their handlers. Regrettably, it also means the end of the series. The entire series has been absolutely lovely, and it's sad to see the end of it. For anyone who's been following Gunslinger Girl, you owe it to yourself to finish it up and buy the last volume. With the same muted palette and calm pacing as previous discs, the episodes are a testimony to the fact that it is possible to breathe fresh air into an ordinary genre. The tone of the series really is where it shines; there are several moments in the last few episodes where the most touching parts aren't in dialogue or swelling music, but quiet shots of a girl raising her camera or staring out a window. Graceful, lyrical, and wicked cool, buy yourself Gunslinger Girls for Christmas.

Related Products: The European setting and soft atmosphere reminisce of other girls with guns shows like Noir and Madlax.
Tastes Like: Lemon gelato. Sweet and sour at the same time, it's a delicious treat that makes you so sad when you reach the bottom.

Gantz DVD 2 - Kill or Be Killed
ADV Films 50 min. 2/10 $17.98 03/08/2005
Gantz DVD 3 – Aftershocks 4244
ADV Films 50 min. 3/10 $17.98 04/05/2005
Gantz DVD 4 – Terminal Dispatch
ADV Films 50 min. 4/10 $17.98 05/03/2005

Gantz is such an addictive show that it's almost depressing watching it two episodes a time. Nothing sucks more than cliffhangers, so watching a string of discs in a row is totally the way to go. All the surviving dead people were transported back to their world, but something strange happened. Kei realized that another version of herself was still living, and that she was merely a carbon copy, now stuck without a life to go back to. Now, before the characters get pulled back into the game again, they have to deal with something a lot harsher than aliens... life. Between dealing with bullies, learning to cope with love and loss, the series becomes less about Men In Black-style alien shootouts than a group of people, bewildered at everything around them. This is definitely a good show for any action lover. Sometimes the episodes in between the bloodshed get a little too weighed down with pseudo-introspection, but for the most part, it's a captivating series that keeps viewers on edge. Grab a few of these the next time you're at the store and give it a good marathon.

Related Products: Exploding people? Blood? Give Elfen Lied a go.
Tastes Like: Fried catfish. Sometimes it's really tasty and crispy, and at other times, you just want to drown out the fishy taste with ketchup.

Mermaid Forest DVD 2 - Bitter Flesh
Geneon 75 min. 2/4 $29.98 09/20/2005

Forget the mermaids of yore; forget the beautiful flowing hair, the beautiful voices, and the charming generosity of fairytales. According to Mermaid Forest and Harry Potter, mermaids are creepy, sharp-toothed, scary, and did I mention creepy? Takahashi has created a fascinating world where mermaids have more notoriety than Bigfoot and El Chupacabra combined. Legend has it that anyone who eats the flesh of a mermaid will gain eternal youth and life, but no one ever mentions that the success rate is about 0.0001%—everyone else turns into an immortal blob of monster. What makes these standalone stories particularly interesting is that Takahashi has put some serious planning into the details, drafting a complex system of what happens when who eats what. Luckily, it's enough of a premise to milk out a few more episodes. As Yuta and Mana travel across the country, they encounter plenty of new people, all who have either eaten mermaid flesh, or desperately crave it. And, somehow along the way, the couple has to die at least once per episode, which is kind of a raw deal. While this story formula is still fun, it's beginning to wear out its welcome. Okay, yeah, mermaid meat does powerful things, but it's not enough of an eye-opener to last for much longer. Let's hope the upcoming discs have something more to offer, or else this series will get pretty dull.

Related Products: Check out the Rumiko Takahashi Anthologies for more Takahashi one-shot action.
Tastes Like: Sashimi. You know, maybe mermaid flesh would be safer if they actually cooked it, or sent it in to a lab for analyses before just munching down on it.

Sakura Diaries DVD 1- Secrets & Lies
ADV Films 150 min. 1/? $29.98 09/27/2005

Someone needs to invent interactive anime DVDs where every time a character is annoying, you can kick them in the face. I would've used that option extensively in the first four episodes. Luckily, Sakura Diaries ended up surprising me quite a bit, changing my opinion from “I hate this so much” to “I almost want to see what happens next.” The series focuses on a country boy who desperately wants to go to college in Tokyo, but he keeps running into trouble. Namely, a girl named Urara, who is not only desperately in love with him and prances around him half-naked, but also happens to be his cousin. The two of them make up the Dumb Duo, both with character quirks and streaks of stupidity that make them incredibly aggravating and almost impossible to watch. Really, it's the characters that make this series so unbearable; the storyline is predictable enough, but having dislikable characters just makes it ten times worse. Still, it doles out a huge surprise in the last two episodes by dropping all the superficial whining and lunging straight for the emotional punches. Everything that made the show terrible floats away, and you're left with a less-terrible drama about two idiots pining over unrequited love. If you want an angsty romance and also the cheap kick of getting six episodes a disc, Netflix this baby over the holidays.

Related Products: The most unbearable romance of all time? If I See You In My Dreams. Now those were some punch-worthy characters.
Tastes Like: Really bony fish. You know those small flat fish that have a million bones and take half an hour just to scrape together enough meat to eat? Sometimes you just want to give up before you even get there.

Avenger DVD - Complete Collection
Bandai 325 min. 1/1 $34.98 10/25/2005

Once you've recovered from the shock of hearing the most cacophonous opening theme ever performed, you can settle down for a nice rehash of science fiction themes that takes 13 episodes to go absolutely nowhere. It has the recipe down pat (Betty Kuraka's 100 Anime Classic Recipes, page 47): a tough chick who lives only for revenge and aggression, a little kid/doll/android/robot/orphan/bipedal creature who follows her around with blank eyes and does her bidding, some loud-mouthed guy who's there to fill up the time between fights, shadowy dictators, and a barren wasteland populated by domes where people huddle for comfort. The only difference is that Avenger coats the entire thing with cryptic bullshit. It's not confusing, mind you, but the script is just not good. Rather than relying on clever storytelling to pull out the plot twists and hook in viewers, the characters just babble endlessly about nondescript pronouns and mysterious codenames. Avenger isn't exactly a shining example of a smashing good time, but if you're new to the post-apocalyptic beefmaster-with-a-beef genre, it's a decent show for a low budget. The entire 13-episode disc is packed into a shiny tin, and it's conveniently priced. Other than that, give it a pass.

Related Products: For a new twist on the post-apocalyptic genre that doesn't involve bikers or thugs, check out Gilgamesh. It replaces meat-headed bad guys with pretty boys and girls with psychic powers.
Tastes Like: Flat soda. Flavor's nothing without bubbles and zest. May as well just pour it out.

Thanks for reading; see you next time!

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