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Shelf Life
Snakes on a Disc

by Bamboo Dong,
We need to stop being so mean to each other. I mean it.

This past weekend, I journeyed to Baltimore and witnessed one of the biggest culture clashes I've seen in recent years.

On Friday night, I went to Camden Yards to see the Yankees beat the Orioles by one run in the Last Inning, but far more extreme and vicious than any of the heckling that went on between the two teams' fans was what I saw outside of the ballpark. Imagine 44,000 baseball fans swarming down the street, only to meet with thousands of anime fans, some bedecked in flowing capes, shiny bikinis, and clutching scythes. Was it any surprise that there were a lot of confused faces, questions of “What the f**k? Is it Halloween?”, and heckling? I couldn't have been prouder of my fellow fans when I saw a caped man steel his eyes and walk through them, ignoring their jeers. After all, he was comfortable with his hobbies and lifestyle. But you know what? Some of the anime fans I ran into flat out embarrassed me.

I was talking to two Yankees fans about the game when a group of anime fans bumped into me. A green-haired one yelled, “Ew, baseball people! We're not going to talk to them; I don't even like baseball! If you talk to them, they'll make you dumb!” Right, because everyone who likes sports is a moron. And then there was a group of kids (one of them dressed as Willy Wonka) I decided to approach without my badge, to see how they'd greet me. I asked them kindly what was going on, and they glared at me, saying, “Ugh, it's an anime convention. What does it look like?”
“Oh, neat. I didn't know Willy Wonka was tied into anime, that's really cool.”
“Yeah, whatever. There's a Willy Wonka anime, didn't you know? Everyone knows except people like you.”

As a fellow anime fan, I'm asking all of you to knock it off. Stop being mean. I know that you come to anime conventions to not be judged, but it doesn't help your case to be rude to people. It wasn't just to non-anime fans that hostility was directed either; plenty of anime fans were sniping at each other, making fun of each other and flaunting holier-than-thou attitudes. Come on, guys. Other people already look down on us—do we really need to do that to each other?

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Gantz - Season 2 DVD Box Set
ADV Films 325 min. 1/1 $69.98 07/04/2006

Thirteen-episode thinpaks? That's the way to watch Gantz. The series is so rife with cliff-hangers and it's so powerfully addictive that popping it two episodes at a time is torture. If you thought the first half of the show was powerful, the last half will have you molded to your chair, horrified. After the first two alien showdowns, the main characters are struggling to go on with their everyday lives, but GANTZ is one sick man who has other plans for them. He pulls them in for their third hunt, deadlier than anything they've encountered before. With most violent fighting shows, it's hard not to at the edge of your seat, shouting and cheering for the good guys to win, but not so much with Gantz. Sure, the third battle started off that way, but as the episodes wear on, you find yourself pulling further and further away from the screen, appalled at what's happening, but unable to tear away. That's part of the twisted appeal of Gantz. Its crude portrayals of violence and sex are anything but glamorous, but the images are so visceral that you can't help but continue watching. Since the first episode, the series has been laced with social commentary as well and this continues up until the very end, adding another layer to the story. In fact, if you venture to the extras on the last disc, an interview with the director has him saying that he wants Gantz to inspire viewers to think, to discuss amongst themselves. He accomplished that. From its gore to its ideal-studded monologues to the vague ending, Gantz will leave you full of ideas and questions. That's the way it should be.

Basilisk DVD 1
Funimation 100 min. 1/6 $29.98 08/08/06
Basilisk - Limited Edition DVD 1 + Guillotine Artbox + Scroll
Funimation 100 min. 1/6 $44.98 08/08/06

There's no pleasing everyone all the time. With Basilisk, it's a good thing that there's enough romance and blood-spurting to please fans on both sides of the viewer spectrum. Another visually-luscious Gonzo title, Basilisk takes the age-old ninja versus ninja theme and spices it up with the most violent of emotions—love. However, your enjoyment of the series really depends on how you react to standard freak-versus-freak plot ploys. If there is one thing that this series has an abundance of, it is freaks. From Tokugawa Ieyasu, who mysteriously carries a scrotum on his chin, to slug-men who drip through ceiling cracks (and damn, was that no-limbed crawly thing disturbing!!), there are maybe four normal-looking characters on the first disc. While this works for shows like Naruto, I somehow expected more from Basilisk. With its powerful messages about love and vengeance, I thought it would rise above the stereotypical freakfest and deliver solid fight sequences. I'd rather see a swordfight between men any day over a man with mile-long rubbery arms grasping at a floating fat man with big tits. It's this ridiculousness of the characters and battle sequences that drags the show down; plus, there're so many of them it's hard to keep them straight. To give a brief introduction, two clans have been bitter rivals since the beginning of time, but now, the grandchildren of their leaders are about to get married. Of course, things never go as planned, and the clans have been ordered to choose ten of their best warriors to fight to the death in order to determine the heir to the shogunate. Not the most ingenious of storylines, but once again, it's the romance that rises to the surface. The lead characters are so passionate about each other that you just know things are going to end tragically, so here's to hoping the series will get better once the WOAHFREAKS angle exhausts itself. The first volume is a half-bust, but it's worth Netflixing just to check it out. Or to laugh at ball sac man.

Haré+Guu DVD 4
AN Entertainment 100 min. 4/7 $29.95 08/22/2006

Hare needs to chill out. He really needs to pop some Benadryl or something and just relax because he is driving me nuts. Haré+Guu continues its tradition of introducing fresh, quirky characters whenever things slow down. With this volume, it's the introduction of Bell and Ashio, two servants from Weda's childhood home. Besides bringing a bit more comedy, they also usher in some much-needed exposition about Weda's past. As this series progresses, it's starting to look as though it's not just a simple-minded screwball comedy; already, the change in Hare (and the way he reacts to having Guu as a stable part of his life) helps give this show some depth it was sorely lacking at the beginning. It's still a little too early to tell if Bell and Ashio will prove to be a turning point, but they've certainly made things a lot more interesting. Haré+Guu is getting better by the volume.

Saiyuki Gunlock DVD 2
Geneon 100 min. 2/? $29.98

Like all the previous Saiyuki series, the second volume of Gunlock is only exciting for spurts at a time. The rest of it is filler; then again, if you like filler, then you'll be in heaven. Kougaiji is still after the scroll, but he's been changed into a ruthless killer by Dr. Ni so he's taking it out on Goku. Eventually the rest of the boys show up, a few fireballs are hurled, and the storyline is put on hold again so viewers can watch them play Jumanji, only without the mustachioed hunter and Robin Williams. After that, Gajyo goes on a date. Whoopah. I'm already bothered enough (still) by the GAP clothes and the armored vehicles that having all this pointless filler just rubs me the wrong way. I realize that our heroes are still adventuring, and that side-stories must happen along the way, but for someone who is not inherently a Saiyuki fan, I don't really care about what little scenarios they run into. Needless to say, if you are a Saiyuki fan, you probably will care. Ultimately, this is a show for people who either liked the previous series, or don't mind watching people wander around. At the very least, the characters are pretty entertaining and they have great chemistry, so that alone should be worth a quick rental.

Case Closed DVD 1.3
Funimation 150 min. 3/? $29.98 07/11/06

Does anyone remember reading Encyclopedia Brown? He always had some cool trick for solving cases, like some physics fact or some stray plant fiber. Conan reminds me of him, only he's more likely to run into men who get their skulls bashed in over bathtubs or see guys who have been pinned to a wall with a sword. Now if only he could ditch his irritating 8-year old friends, who are neither spunky nor courageous, just annoying. (Though the dub is slightly more obnoxious, since the kids possess voices reserved for cartoon animals; they also dubbed some goofy 80s song, which gives it a quirky Brady Brunch flair.) Like all Conan episodes though, the six on this disc are entertaining enough. It's hard to have the attention span to watch them all in a row, but if you're looking for something to do for a stray half-hour here and there, this isn't too bad of a choice. You'd probably never watch it more than once though, so a rental might be just the thing to cure some boredom blues.

Broken Saints
20th Century Fox 700 min. 1/1 $49.98 08/01/2006

It's a mystery how this DVD got to my mailbox especially since it has nothing to do with anime, but after ignoring it for a couple of months, I knew I had to review it once I saw it on the anime (why?) shelf at FYE. Having read up on the history of this epic 3-year project started by former EA employee Brooke Burgess, saying negative things about it kind of makes me feel like a dick, but it's a DVD review after all. Broken Saints is described by its creators as a “Flash graphic novel” and has won numerous flash awards for its achievements. In its completion, it clocks in at an impressive 12 hours and can be seen online in its entirety on its original site. With legions of fans around the world (according to the website; I myself was never introduced to this until now), this dedicated labor of love tells of four people who realize that all is not as it seems, and are drawn into a Matrix-like world of mystery and truth. It looks very much like a comic book, with panels that are panned across and faded into, but unlike printed media, one is forced to go at the lethargic pace dictated by the panimation. If you've been a fan of Burgess's project and have been supporting the website, then undoubtedly you will want this boxset for part of your collection, but truthfully, for newcomers… it's a little hard to get into. The rampant theology and introspective musing makes this epic incredibly dull and more pretentious than an undergrad comp. lit. paper. As a DVD, Broken Saints is really only something that could be enjoyed by longtime fans, but I recommend checking out some of the episodes on the website, if only to marvel at what these men have done.

(As an aside: for those fans who do end up buying it, the packaging is very beautiful and creative, though I must forcefully interject that I was not amused with the “let's pretend we're really technical by grabbing some diagrams from some kid's EE book!” blueprint insert cluttered with meaningless op-amp wiring schemes.

That's it for this time; thanks for reading! And enjoy my screencap of the week from Saiyuki Reload Gunlock v.3 which was cute I just had to share it. Look, he's roaring at you.

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