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Shelf Life
The Triumphant Return

by Bamboo Dong,
Ah, how it comes back. The feeling of the worn keyboard keys below my fingers, the warmth of the “play” button, the pain of staring at a computer screen for hours on end... I've missed you guys. It's been a lonely stretch of time while this column was on hiatus, but I'm happy, relieved, and a little bit forlorn to say that in correlation with my absence, I officially have a bachelor of science and my undergraduate career is no more.

So now we dance. My DVDs with my DVD player, my fingers with my keyboard, and I with you. Thanks for all your support and your emails over these past several weeks. I'm stoked to be back!! Be sure to check the end of the column for a new section I like to call Dirrrty Pop, the place for all the discs that just don't fit in, whether it's late-night shows or copious amounts of porno.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Karas DVD 1 - The Prophecy
Manga Entertainment 90 min. 1/2 $19.98 04/25/2006

Exciting, fluid, and visually staggering, Karas would be pretty incredible if it made sense. All in due time. The Prophecy represents the first half of a six-part OVA series celebrating the 40th anniversary of Tatsunoko Productions. Demons and humans have coexisted since the beginning of time, living in parallel worlds separated by a delicate barrier. However, all is upset when the Mikura begin to make their presence known as demons who must kill to survive. It's not an original concept, nor is it original to introduce a shadowy hero who slashes his way to a pyrotechnic victory, but it works, and it works well. The hero is something to marvel at—he has everything required to be badass: he transforms, he's fearless, he's dark and mysterious, and he kills things with a long sword. Originally, the intention behind Karas was to create a new hero for the 21st century, and in some respects, I think Tatsunoko succeeded. Sure, the first disc is a pretty clouded and a little confusing the first time through, but by the end of the series, I predict nothing short of cheers for our enigmatic protagonist. With its sinister storyline, its sexy blend of 2D and 3D animation, and its vast array of exciting characters, Karas has the potential to turn into a cult hit.

Genshiken - Premium DVD Collection
Media Blasters 375 min. 1-3/3 $89.95 06/13/2006

When Genshiken first came out, I instantly felt at home with the ridiculously nerdy characters that graced the screen. I didn't really identify with them (or at least I would never admit to doing dorky things like... standing in a long line in high-heeled cosplay for hours just for the chance to meet someone, say, Mari Iijima or anything. Who me? Never!), but I envied their camaraderie and their acceptance of who they were. So many shows lambaste the otaku culture with parodies and sly jabs that it's nice to see one that doesn't bother to present any opinions about it—just traits. Genshiken tells of the adventures of a college anime club as they go through the motions of otaku life. Whether it's buying doujinshi, defending hentai, or standing in long convention lines, it's the simple practices of their hobby that make their lives so fascinating. Chances are, the scenes will be familiar to you at some point or another, in the conversations they have, or the things they do. Years ago, Otaku no Video was the Otaku Bible for that generation of fans; Genshiken is ours. If you've been putting off buying this series, now's the time to snap it up in one purchase; you won't regret it.

Strawberry Marshmallow DVD 1 - Cute is as Cute Does
Geneon 100 min. 1/3 $24.98 06/20/2006

Some shows exist for the sole purpose of being cute, and nothing else. With a name like Strawberry Marshmallow, if you're expecting angst, action, or even tears, you'll be sorely disappointed. Much like a strange amalgamation of Bottle Fairies, Doki Doki School Hours, and the rest of the Geneon Cute-Factory Lineup, the show is a slice-of-life comedy that explores what happens when cute girls collide. Strawberry Marshmallow stars a group of 6th graders who deal with the harsh, bitter realities of life like staying up past 8PM and standing in the hallway. It's a little mind-numbing if you watch too many episodes in a row, because truthfully, nothing happens. If one of the girls finds a rock or something, it's a Big Deal. Needless to say, not the deepest storytelling ever, or the most action-packed, but it's cute enough to cheer someone up on a humdrum day. What ultimately ends up being the show's high point (and its subsequent downfall) is the girls' motley personalities. They range between cynical and chipper to irritatingly stupid, so if character-based anecdotes are your cup of tea, you'll be drowning in happiness. Everyone else... well, it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy an entire show about the mind-workings of little girls.

Kamichu! DVD 1 – Little Deity
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $29.98 06/06/2006
Kamichu! – Limited Edition DVD 1 + Artbox – Little Deity
Geneon 100 min. 1/? $49.98 06/06/2006

Kaaaaamiiiiiichuuuuuuu!!! No, it's not a new Pokémon. It's a little girl who wakes up one day and discovers that she's a god. Just like that. How? Why? Doesn't matter. She's a god, which means she has to deal with more important things like... what kind of god she is, how she activates her powers, that kind of thing. Of course, the minute she accidentally causes a hurricane with her face on it, the whole world knows about her new job description. There are some things you just can't keep a secret. Luckily, she can use her newfound powers to help patrons around the world, like the Japanese government and her lost cat. Whether it's answering people's money questions or helping phallus-shaped Martians go back to their home planets, she's the default expert. After all, she is a god. As quaint as the series is though, it's a bit hard to watch unless you can completely suspend every trace of cynicism and snark in your mind. The show simply operates on much simpler terms; no one questions why a girl has suddenly become a god, or how she even knows this. No one calls BS on her claims, no one tries to give her an MRI—people just accept, and unless you can go into the episodes with that same kind of forgiving attitude, you'll be frustrated at every character that graces the screen. If you're in the mood for something sweet and simple, then you'll most likely enjoy the earnest simplicity of the show, but if you're someone who needs to think analytically about everything you watch, you may want to stray away from this. It's cute, but the absurdity is a little much.

Desert Punk DVD 1 – Enter the Desert
Desert Punk DVD 1 + Artbox – Enter the Desert
Desert Punk DVD 2 – The Desert Duo
Desert Punk DVD 3 – Vixen of the Desert
Desert Punk DVD 4 – Desert Dung
Funimation 100 min. 4/6 $29.98 06/20/06

Some guy who wanders around shooting things? Who cares? Well, throughout the course of the first several episodes, I learned two things: 1) That's about the gist of the show, and 2) I care. The premise of the show isn't too hard to understand—in a dreary desert world, an unexpected hero uses his unorthodox tricks to save the day and chase after well-endowed women. Studio Gonzo has created such a lovable hero though, that he's all it takes to make the show an amazingly funny good time. Each episode usually involves him on some mission or other, whether it's hunting someone down, or tracking down an object. What's exciting is the way that he handles things—personality-wise. His nonchalant attitude about life makes him fun to follow, and in the Trigun-vein of goofy heroes, the laughs counterbalance the action perfectly. If you're yearning for some comedic action, Desert Punk may be just the laugh-fest for you.

Kannazuki no Miko DVD 1 – Solar Priestess
Kannazuki no Miko DVD 1 + Artbox – Solar Priestess
Kannazuki no Miko DVD 2 – Lunar Priestess
Geneon 100 min. 2/? $29.98 06/27/2006

Charisma can take the place of anything—and I'm convinced it holds for movies and series, too. Kannuzuki no Miko is rife with absurdity and random elements that would normally knock a show down a few pegs, but there's something so infectious about it that all of those glaring problems melt away. Maybe it's because the characters are all smashingly attractive, but their plight is so fascinating (despite being cliché enough to fill any given shelf of hentai) that one can't help but watch. Himeko is a cute girl who's satisfied being secret friends with Himemiya, the princess of the school. Her 16th birthday is shaping up to be the time of her life, but her morning is greeted by a dark solar eclipse. Before anyone realizes it, monsters are tearing across the town, destroying everything in sight. Long story short, the two girls discover that they are the fabled Lunar and Solar Priestesses, destined to save the world from being raped by mecha-piloting demons, including the boy who has a huge crush on our heroine. It's not quite clear why he knows how to pilot a mecha, or why he's not more concerned that he's been saddled with a terrible side job. Nor is it explained why the girls are so nonplussed by the whole ordeal. Still, it's less about the why and the how than it is about what the girls are going to do now that they've uncovered this factoid about themselves. One of the charming things about this series is the way they manage to push those glaring points into the background, using them as a backdrop for the more important things in the girls' lives, like their friendships and their romances. Maybe they're just that charismatic. It's certainly not a shining example of lucid storytelling, but it's a good way to whittle away a few hours on a carefree afternoon.

Live-action? Porn? Just plain weird? It's probably in this section, so enjoy.

Vermilion Pleasure Night DVD 1 – Optic Erotica
ADV Films 100 min. 1/? $19.98 06/13/2006

I don't care how funny Conan is, Vermilion Pleasure Night puts him to shame. A late-night Japanese variety show, it delights in shocking viewers with the kind of hilarity can only come from lighting mannequins on fire and sticking needles into a woman's ass. I was skeptic when I first saw this disc, but within the week, I showed it to everyone I knew. Late night video soirees don't get any better than this. The show is comprised of random skits ranging between an angry girl who takes her anger out on the mannequins around her, to strange claymation stories where heads drive around and pummel each other. (If you want to put this show in context, just remember that The Fuccons were taken from this show. Yeah.) This is definitely for people who have quirky senses of humor and/or chronic stoners; sure, you could realize the brilliance in how the show subtly attacks Western culture or pop fashion, or... you could just sit back and enjoy sexy women dancing around like Barbie dolls. Think your DVD collection isn't weird enough? Pick up Vermilion Pleasure Night.

Duchess of Busty Mounds
Kitty Media 60 min. 1/1 $29.95 04/18/2006

The instant I saw the cover, I knew I had to rally a group of my friends to watch this masterpiece and review this thing. Call them hooters, call them mounds, call them bazongas, wind-jammers, or whatever, but Jesus Christ, look at her tits! They're... huge! If it wasn't apparent enough from the cow-udder, er, cover, the Duchess is quite the breasty busty one. Forget exposition, just stare at the cover. I'll be jiggered if she doesn't have a steel rod for a spine. John's grandfather is a rich old bastard who bangs a lot of women, but finally, it's his grandson's turn. Once he gets married, all the money will go to him. Naturally, this means that everyone wants to get in his pants, and my, is he a stallion of endurance. Sex aside (of which there is plenty), this DVD is amazing. What other porn has lines like, “My balls yearn to be on your chin!!” and “I want to bronze your dick and put it in my private dildo collection!!” None. That's right. Midnight party? Wake up with the Duchess.

Thanks for reading; it's great to be back!

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