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Shelf Life
FIFA Drift

by Bamboo Dong,
The only thing more depressing than trade agreements swapping out your favorite players from your favorite sports team, is having it happen without anyone noticing. This last year, Colorado Avalanche have been sent spiraling into depression time and time again, first with the trade of Forsberg, then Aebischer, then Tanguay. Little did most fans know that around the time when the mighty AT was traded, that Rob Blake decided to go back to the Los Angeles Kings, and Danny Hinote got sent to the St. Louis Blues. The news was kept so hush-hush that not a single peep was allowed onto the news wires, just silent roster changes. Now that's depressing. It's sad enough that the invincible 2001 Avalanche team is down to two, but to not even give fans the satisfaction of screaming in outrage and sobbing in misery? My heart can't take much more of this.

Now, I will take that random tidbit from my life and not-so-cleverly segue into what will be a plug for one of ANN's recently-added features. A few weeks ago, we officially launched the Anime News Network blogs. In it, you can read commentary from industry representatives chronicling the details of their jobs, or tales from members of the ANN editorial staff about recent happenings in the industry and what not. It's pretty nifty stuff, so check it out if you get a free moment!

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Speed Grapher DVD 1
Funimation 1/? 100 min. $29.98 07/04/2006
Speed Grapher DVD 1 - Limited Edition
Funimation 1/? 100 min. $39.98 07/04/2006

Close the door. Turn off the lights. Turn the sound up. Remove yourself from any and all distractions. If you're in the right mood, Speed Grapher will blow your mind. This is a series that will either have you intrigued, horrified, and spellbound—or scoffing under your breath, depending on your mindset, but it all comes down to suspending cynicism and opening your eyes to a world where only two things matter: money and pleasure. Sagai is a grizzled war photographer who gains visceral pleasure from taking pictures. He receives the assignment of the lifetime when he's asked to infiltrate a secret club made up of the city's wealthiest politicians and socialites. While he's there, he accidentally interferes with a deadly ceremony, but rather than killing him, it grants him his heart's deepest desire—to ability to kill with his camera. On the surface, the series seems a little hokey; it's hard to put stock in superpowers and sacred girls, and it doesn't help having a flamboyant man running amok with a thong on his nose, but if you embrace its dark overtones and shocking flashes of eroticism and violence, you'll be able to get closer to the meat of the story. Speed Grapher, amidst its jumbled cast of fat side characters, is an indictment of a materialistic economy where everything and everyone can be bought. Pleasure is the most sought-after commodity, yet the one thing that could drive someone to ruin, and it's this interplay that the series punctuates with sex and sadism to drive home its point. Speed Grapher is definitely a series that needs to be watched in the right mindset; even the smallest distraction or Braveheart joke will shatter the atmosphere. In the end, you may not like it, but the least you could do is give it an earnest chance. Despite the shaky execution at times, this show can be amazing.

Tastes like: Salmon roe. Some like it, some don't, but if you're one to enjoy the intense taste and feeling of the eggs, then it's one of the most delightful dining experiences around.

Elemental Gelade DVD 1 - React
Geneon 1/6 125 min. $29.98 06/13/2006

Nowadays, it's rare to have a fantasy adventure series that actually feels adventurous, and is even remotely fantastical. Too often, shows fall into the trap of trite clichés, with half-naked elves who fall in love with Plucky Boys™, and burly men with cheesecake grins and metallic He-Man wifebeaters. Thankfully, Elemental Gelade has none of that. The premise of the show isn't blindingly original, but it presents itself with such drive and suspense that one can't help but be sucked in. Cou is a Plucky Boy™ who is on a never-ending quest to become stronger. His fortune turns when he uncovers Ren, an Edel Raid who can fuse with a host and turn into a powerful weapon. Together (with a small posse in tow), they embark on a journey to the legendary Edel Garden. But, naturally, because everyone wants powers too, the group is interrupted by enemy attacks every episode. What makes this series work so well is the way that it handles suspense. The mysterious Edel Raids are never fully explained—instead, every episode brings a new tidbit of backstory about the characters that sheds light onto their purpose, their emotions, and the societies that protect them. By playing just slightly hard to get with the story, viewers can't help but want to know what will happen next. The only major source of irritation is the time that is sucked up by transformation sequences. Every time Ren does anything, it's accompanied by a chant that takes eternity to complete. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing after all if she died. Pity. Overall, Elemental Gelade is an interesting foray into the fantasy adventure genre. It's not overly unique and has a few slow spots, but so far it's managed to stay fresh for five episodes and counting.

Tastes like: Hawaiian punch. It's pretty tasty, but most people only drink it once every few years. When you do, though, it's a good time. For other fantasy series, check out older stuff like Sorcerous Stabber Orphen or Slayers. If you want more transforming weapons though, s-CRY-ed may be up your alley.

Tactics DVD 1
Manga 1/? 150 min. $24.98 06/27/2006

If I had a pair of magical scissors, I would snip out the first and last 5 minutes of every Tactics episode. Those 10 minutes are single-handedly responsible for making a show with great potential fall so very, very short. Like many shows that have gone before it, Tactics stars a writer who runs around in shrine garb and exorcises things. What's particularly appealing about it is the way that each supernatural mystery is presented—the suspense is so well crafted that each episode is genuinely creepy and fascinating. In fact, had the entire series been done in a serious, spooky tone, it would've been much nicer. Instead, each episode begins with droll slapstick comedy; not only is there super-deformation galore, but also unnecessary comic side relief characters. This fan-pandering is so distracting that it drops the series down several notches. If it's not going to take itself seriously, why should I? It doesn't help that every case is solved the exact same way, using the same animation sequences. What could have been a good (albeit unoriginal) supernatural show is reduced to a tired rollercoaster of quality, and the end product is so mediocre it's bad. I felt so empty after the last episode that I sat down and watched an episode of the X-Files instead.

Tastes like: RC Cola. It tastes like Coke, but no one would buy it over real Coke unless you're a broke-ass college student. There's some other supernatural shows on the market that are worth checking out, like Requiem from the Darkness or Rumiko Takahashi's Anthology.

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World DVD 1 - Falling Star
ADV Films 1/? 100 min. $29.98 07/04/2006
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World DVD 1 - Falling Star + Box
ADV Films 1/? 100 min. $39.98 07/04/2006

Slap on a wristband and pull out the eyeliner, because Gainax just plunged into emo mode. This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, a poetic title that would fare well on a JamisonParker album, recounts the tale of two high school boys, one of them a spunky lad with a kind heart and the other, a melancholy brooder. Through various turns of events, both boys end up living with beautiful alien girls, each the perfect personality match for the boys (Coincidence? Osmosis? Gainax doesn't tell us yet.). It's a little hard to tell how this show's going to turn out just from the first volume. Even the first episode, an action-packed fight between the boys and a large monster, is vastly different from the rest of the volume, which is largely clichéd scenes of the aliens interacting with the boys, the boys getting ribbed at school about living with hot chicks, and one of the aliens sitting in the rain, possibly internally contemplating slitting her wrists. Admittedly, everything is so shrouded in secrecy right now that one can't help but be mildly curious about what's going to happen next, but so far, the series has been so packed with overused clichés that it's more fun to predict what's going to happen in each new episode. It feels like Gainax really wanted to make a series that would appeal both to hordes of horny boys, and those who like to pretend that downheartening monologues equal deep, complex thought, but all they ended up with is a vapid, aimless fanservice series drenched in layers of emo. It's possible that this will completely change in the volumes to come, but for now, the first few episodes just aren't worth it.

Tastes like: Tears. Write some poetry and get over it. One can't help but compare this show to Mahoromatic, whose Japanese cast even largely reassembles itself for This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.

JDM Option DVD 26: World Car Soccer! DVD - LiveAction
Geneon 26/? 75 min. 09/12/2006 $19.98

Step aside Zidane, you've just been upstaged by ten old men in tube socks. If you're feeling a little empty after the end of the World Cup, Geneon will soon release volume 26 of JDM Option International, a Japanese performance and tuned cars magazine. The headliner? World Cup Car Soccer. Two teams of five cars are pitted against each other at the Fuji Speedway Soccer Stadium, and their goal is simple: to get a 100-pound ball into the other team's goal. It's not an understatement when I say that this is THE coolest thing ever. Cars are cool. Soccer is cool. But car soccer? Pure genius. The game is easily one of the most entertaining 40 minutes I've ever spent in my life, and if you're a fan of cars, soccer, destruction, drifting, or any other combination of the above, then this will absolutely rock your world. Does your father/brother/son/significant male other have a birthday coming up? Because this would make the perfect gift. The only thing that could possibly make it better for men is maybe naked cheerleaders, but this is already pretty damned awesome. Y'all need to get your hands on this disc. Right now.

Para Para Max US Mix: The Moves 101
Yoko Ishida Live in Concert DVD - LiveAction Special Edition
Geneon 1/1 183 min. $34.98

I was first introduced to para para when I converted my lazy-ass from Dance Dance Revolution to Para Para Paradise; waving my arms like a tool was much better than working up a sweat on “So Deep,” no matter how lame I looked. For those sheltered people who haven't yet been introduced, para para is a style of dancing where, instead of moving suavely to the music, you prance back and forth while using your hands to make various slicing motions. Except... it only looks kind of good if you're with a group of people doing the same moves. Well, now you can hustle up your friends and learn. Geneon has released a para para instructional video, which is more unintentional hilarity than anything else. Backed by four tracks off Yoko Ishida's anime theme remix CD, each song comes with two modes—an instructional mode, and an eye-candy mode. The eye-candy mode features a group of women in tight clothing prancing and slicing, showing a generation of nerds what they could look like if they learned all the dance moves on the DVD. It was the instructional mode that finally broke me. There are two male instructors that alternate songs, but at the risk of hurting any feelings, I'll let any mention of them slide. Let's just say that watching those men prance and slice is maybe one of the funniest things on the planet. Honestly, I appreciate what Geneon was trying to do when they came up with the concept for this DVD. Para para is hard to learn gracefully, so they developed a very easy to follow guide for it. They even gave it fun music so frustrated learners could at least enjoy the beats. But... oh, Geneon, did you really think people would watch this and not split their sides laughing and crying? It's really, really goofy, but hey, maybe it's just me. Maybe it's because I never bought any of those instructional dance videos like they advertise on TV. Maybe that's my downfall.

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

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