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Shelf Life
Tales of Bioboosting

by Bamboo Dong,

Shelf Worthy
Noein DVD 2
Tales of Phantasia DVD
InuYasha DVD 51
Gakuen Heaven DVD 1
Guyver DVD 3
You never quite realize how much you need the internet until it stops working. Then you're faced with so many waves of unproductiveness and boredom that it's silly. Maybe it's just me, but even though I'm pretty darned unproductive when I'm online, I'm even more so when I don't have it, because then I just spend hours poking at it until it works again. Needless to say, I apologize for not having this column up at midnight, but my 'net completely let me down and presumably cheated on me with a younger girl.

Luckily, while my normally trusty T3 was on the fritz, I got the chance to go see 300, along with half of Orange County. For the rest of the night, whenever I watched any anime disc, the only thing I could think about was beefy Spartans running through the scene, slaying everything in their path with a hearty “Huuh huuh huuuuh!”

Somehow, that worked surprisingly well for my viewing of Tales of Phantasia. Every time I saw our heroes running down a mountain, swinging their swords wildly at what could only be Street Sharks (Jawsome!), I kept hoping one of them would decapitate something or eat an apple. Unfortunately, this OVA series never quite reaches “epic battle” status. What it does provide, however, is an entertaining two-hour diversion for people who kind of want to play the Tales of Phantasia video game, but are too lazy to do so. Like me.

It goes without saying that when an entire game is crammed into a four-episode OVA series, a lot of the timeline is going to be left out. This doesn't appear to detract from the anime, though fans of the game may be more sensitive to this than others. As someone who knows next to nothing about the game, however, the story flowed well, and while it didn't present anything groundbreaking, it made the time pass in a pleasing manner.

Chaos erupts when the Demon King is unsealed, ready to send the world into oblivion—or so they think. In the end, he turns out to be a rather surprising character, an aspect of the story that makes it a bit more than just a standard adventurers-slay-monsters type adventure. In this case, the adventurers come in the form of a typical RPG group. Hailing from the past, they've been commissioned to go into the future and stop the Demon King's killing spree. With their swords, magic spells, and summoning prowess, they must fend off throngs of minions as they chase their enemy through “Space and Time.”

While it's very obvious that the story was based off a video game, and makes plenty of eye-rolling gamer references towards summons and the like, it's not an entire waste of time. Granted, it's doesn't have jaw-dropping storytelling, nor is it particularly original if you've played a fair share of RPGs, but for a 120 minute standalone, it's pretty good at staving off boredom. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself a little bored every now and then. There's only so much you can take of watching someone else play a video game.[TOP]

After spending a good two hours watching kids do their RPG thing, I began to thirst for something completely different. I had enough violent titles in my review queue that I really didn't feel like watching more flying fists for at least another two hours. I kind of wanted to watch something random, like teenagers scampering around Laguna Beach, or quarreling over whom to bring to prom. Something fluffy…but with just enough teen angst to make it funny.

Somewhat instinctively, I reached for the first (subtitled-only) volume of Gakuen Heaven, hoping that it would provide me with the fluff and angst I was looking for. I was not disappointed. Filled with plenty of pretty boys and beautiful men, it played out like a vaguely homosexual One Tree Hill, only with the ostracization and special treatment that only comes from anime series about private schools.

Nestled in the heart of Japan is Bell Liberty Academy, a prestigious school for the gifted and talented who don't mind attending a school that shortens to “B.L.” Everyone at the school is gorgeous and uses only the most luxurious of hair care products, and each are brilliant, whether it's in academics or athletics. Then there's Keita, a transfer student who has a full-ride scholarship to the school, but mysteriously, has no exceptional qualities that make him a good candidate to be there. For whatever reason, though, everyone is extraordinarily nice to him anyway, going as far as to lick his elbows and press their willowy chests against him.

There are a few conflicts that arise in the first few episodes, but they don't provide enough complexity or depth to make the story truly worthwhile. For instance, viewers are left wondering why this completely normal boy is allowed into a posh private school. The star of the series also gets to deal with some of the other ills of being a new kid, like being chastised by twin boys who lock him into a storage shed. For the most part, though, the events in the first volume are fairly innocuous. Almost everyone is nice to Keita, and it's obvious that the goals of the series are to promote friendship, “belonging,” and love.

It's simplicity doesn't make it bad, but it does make it a bit bland. Even all the characters look similar, and given the huge cast, it's hard to keep them separate at times. Should viewers be watching out for the tall lanky guy with the wavy hair? Or is it the tall lanky guy with the mildly curly hair that has the best shot with Keita? What about the tall lanky guy with the short hair, but whose friends with both the curly and wavy haired guys? After the tenth pretty boy, it gets frustrating keeping everyone straight. It's a fun, light-hearted show, especially for fans of boy-boy lovin', but it lacks profundity and three-dimensional characters, leaving behind something that's just superficially pretty.[TOP]

However, there's a big difference between intellectual depth and pretension, something that's been plaguing me as of late. It's not necessary for a show or movie to have intellectual depth and be entertaining. The second you add pretension, though, it almost always adds a layer of absurdity that one of my film professors used to call “bullshit.” I'm reminded of this every time I watch some kid's video on YouTube that's nothing but ten minutes of a man rowing a canoe, stopping to forlornly eat a sandwich, and then continue rowing. It always makes me happy when I see something that's artistically beautiful, but doesn't reduce itself to forlornly doing anything to make some kind of trivial point.

Such is the case with Noein, a series that's slowly growing on me. When I watched the first volume, I was taken aback by its muddled storyline and constant layering of cryptic dialogue. Now that the series has had some time to settle in, it's become much more engaging. The characters have slightly more time to develop, and the concept of the parallel dimensions gets a much more detailed explanation.

With Haruka in tow, Karasu disappears to La'cryma, a future-version of the present where humans are relegated to living underground in dank cities. Although I was expecting to see a few sewer mutants, I was disappointed. However, there was a host of interesting side characters, and with the amount of camera time that's spent there, it gives viewers a good chance to explore all (that little) that La'cryma has to offer. Before Haruka gets too comfortable with her new surroundings, she's brought back to the present, where she learns more about the identity of Karasu and gets to play with her abominably shaggy dog. Throw in a few more shifts between the dimensions and a few mentions of the Dragon's Torque, and things get a little complicated again.

For the most part, though, this volume is much more straightforward and linear in its storytelling than the first disc. It certainly helped keep my interest, and while there were moments when I found myself getting bored with the series' attempts to lighten things up with drinking stories and chatter, I enjoyed what the episodes had to offer.

One of the biggest things that Noein has going for it is atmosphere. The visuals are beautiful and futuristic, and the character designs do a good job of portraying individual physiognomy. La'cryma is a really fascinating environment, and the fight scenes are pretty cool to look at. Combined with the fact that watching the story is no longer like wading through quicksand, the second volume is a pretty solid release.[TOP]

Wow. Second volume. Imagine. To contrast, I'm currently holding volume 51 of Inuyasha in my hand. With just this series alone, someone could easily weigh down an entire Ikea shelf and maybe have enough left over to scatter to build a small fortress. Honestly, I'm very impressed with anyone who has the patience (and money!!!) to collect anything that has so many episodes. My attention span isn't nearly that long.

Fortunately, I only had to watch three episodes of this series, and not 154 in a row. The thought of marathoning Inuyasha sends shivers down my spine and acid reflux up my esophagus. Don't get me wrong—these are entertaining episodes, and I'm bowled over by the fact that the story has stayed interesting for so long, but I'll take my jewel-hunting in small doses.

Apparently ornithology was not very big in feudal Japan. There are certain winged creatures commanded by Princess Abi that are constantly referred to as demonic birds, but I would give a Hamilton to wager that they're more reptilian than avian, and could possibly even be dinosaurs. After billions of years of evolution and/or nuclear fallout, they could possibly evolve into birds, but in their current state, they most certainly are not.

Regardless, the three episodes on this disc chronicle the further tyrannies of Abi and her demon “birds.” As they descend upon the castle protecting Naraku's baby, their bloodsucking beaks are thwarted by Kohaku. In a sick twist, the newly-made hero goes on to start killing those around him, acting on an order from Naraku. Although these events go by quickly, their aftermaths provide a modicum of emotionality and heart to the series, something that had been lacking in the episodes leading up to these.

As with all longer series, it's far too easy for the story to start running dry, and it's something that Inuyasha started facing. However, being able to focus on Kohaku and his inner turmoil alleviated that dry spell quite a bit, and even though the rest of the volume is seeped in battles and confrontations, it's the tears shed by this little kid that makes these three episodes so watchable. I certainly don't recommend starting the series just to get to this point, but if you've been dabbling in stray episodes here and there, 51 is worth a rental.[TOP]

My aversion to long series is generally only topped by my aversion to watching remakes of old shows. While some of them are amazing and rocked my socks off (Area 88 TV series, now available in a thinpak!!!!!), some of them just make me roll my eyes.

Guyver makes me roll my eyes. Not necessarily in a bad way, but not entirely in a good way, either. It's the kind of show that deserves to be watched in the wee hours of the morning with a group of good friends. Just like Ghost Rider made me fabulously happy with its cheesy dialogue and silly plot twists, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor makes me giggle with its absurdity.

At one point in time, Guyver was an awesome idea. Back in the day, when the concept of finding a suit that gave you superhuman strength elicited calls of “woah!” and “cool!,” this show was probably the raddest kid on the block, with his bioboosting armor, pompadour, and treated leather jacket. In 2007, it's a little silly. It's not that it doesn't know how to rock its own style anymore, but that so many derivatives of the series have been made over the years that it's almost a bit trite. For goodness sake, it's about a boy who finds a biosuit and uses it to tear apart Animorphs.

See, in the future, the world is controlled by an evil organization called the Chronos Corporation. In the first volume, viewers found out that, as is the case with all evil organizations, it uses its dirty money to experiment with nature. The pride of the company is a bio-armor suit called The Guyver. With only three of them in existence, it's a big deal when one of them goes missing. It's an even bigger deal with its picked up by a scrappy kid who's freaked out by his new powers, but can't stop using them because he keeps getting attacked by bioheathens that look like various Men in Black aliens. He ends up teaming up with the other two Guyvers and they hatch this plan to take down the Corporation. Flash forward eight episodes, past lots and lots of monsters, and you get to a showdown between the Guyvers and even MORE monsters. But this time, they have the power to slap our heroes pretty hard.

Now that one of the Guyvers is down and out, things are much more interesting, but not by much. That's the beauty of the series. Even with the hero's family in shackles and home laying in ruin, the show still manages to be a monster-of-the-week show. You'd think they'd stop to catch their breath and impart a few introspective speeches, but there's asses to be kicked.

There's something about seeing people morph into frogtopus creature sthat makes it hard to keep a straight face, especially when some robot with tight buttocks comes along to kick it in the chest. In fact, it's pretty hard to keep a straight face throughout the entire volume, which may very well be the charm of the series. It's so goofy that you can't help but keep watching.

Still, the series is as routine as they get, and with minimal character development, this show is weak sauce. While I'm still convinced that this is a downright silly show, I can't help but suggest that if you and your friends are inebriated, you should definitely pop this baby into the DVD player, turn off the lights, and crank up the volume. It's just one of those shows.[TOP]

That's it for this week! Next time, fresh from my finals wounds, I'll investigate daikon farmers, intergalactic warfare, and the mystery of how half my DVDs have disappeared into a void. Thanks for reading!

Who's up on deck this time? The amazing Rosyna Keller, whose DVD collection is so expansive that it requires multiple pictures. She has over 1100 DVDs-- and that was back in early February. We can only assume that her collection is now even bigger.

Are we awed? And yeah, I'm loving how awesome it is to have yet another person proudly displaying Stargate SG-1 DVDs right next to their anime.

Want to show off your shelves? Send your pictures to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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