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Shelf Life
Angels, Devils, and Goddesses

by Bamboo Dong,

Shelf Worthy
Rumbling Hearts DVD 3
Ah! My Goddess S2 DVD 1
Black Cat DVD 3
Disgaea DVD 2
Like always seems to be the case, I'm sitting in a plane, finishing out the last few words of my column. This past weekend, I had the joy of spending my time in Boston, a city that I'd grown to love after going to school in Providence for four years, and always finding an excuse to visit The Hub. Ever since its first year, Anime Boston has consistently been a fun show to go to, with its enthusiastic fans, its laid-back atmosphere—and the fact that it's in Boston. I got to eat amazing food (East Coast > West Coast, baby), hang out with old friends, and I had the pleasure of going to the first Red Sox / Yankees opener on Friday. Mind you, I'm a Rockies fan for life, but if you turn down tickets for a game like that, you don't really like baseball. And now, I'm experiencing the joy of flying JetBlue for merely the second time in my life, and trying really hard to not spend all my time ogling the Sox game on DirecTV (4 consecutive home runs? Why can't the Rockies play like this all the time?).

Anyway, be sure to check out our video coverage from Anime Boston 'cuz it was a wicked good time. Welcome to Shelf Life.

When Rumbling Hearts first appeared on the fansub circuit, back in the day, I scoffed at it. I was operating under the bias that since it was based on a visual novel, it couldn't possibly be good, that at the best, it'd be nothing but melodramatic soap trash. Now at the last volume, I couldn't be happier that I gave the series a chance. From start to end, it does nothing but kick you in the face and make you cry—but in a good way, like watching a touching film, or eating a really great cheesecake at the Boston-located Finale dessert restaurant. In the third and final disc, everything wraps up neatly, though not entirely happily. Feelings are confessed, secrets are spoken, and all in all, it's a solid four episodes of drama. As it's been all series long, the characters are in constant angst and various stages of grieving, and while this may not appeal to everyone, it definitely gives you a more raw and painful look at romance that you wouldn't see in other shows.

It's hard to not feel deeply for the characters, and it's part of what makes the series so touching. Anyone who's ever had a relationship fall apart in front of them, no matter what they wanted, or no matter how hard they tried, will be able to relate to at least some aspect of Rumbling Hearts. Every scene is built from bricks of heartache, and if you're bored of all the cookie-cutter romances out there, then this show is just what you've been looking for. I only wish that they'd cut out the loud-mouthed coworker girl from Takayuki's workplace. Hurrah for comic relief and all that, but these cats clearly don't know the difference between “relief” and flat-out intrusive. If I could've somehow lit her hair and fire and strangled her with a sock, I would have done it every time she destroyed a scene with her inconsideration and repetitive lines.

Obnoxious waitress girl aside, Rumbling Hearts is definitely a series that I highly recommend for those who like their romances to skew a little heartbroken. It's different from anything else out there, and if you like watching human emotions at their bleakest, this is the show for you.[TOP]

And speaking of irritating comic relief, I managed to jump straight from one example right to another the second I changed discs. I'm referring to the second season of Ah! My Goddess, released by ADV, where every instance of comedy is less about being funny than it is about having girls scream as loudly as their can, as shrilly as possible. Surely, if they screech something really, really loud, it'll be funny, right?

Fans of Ah! My Goddess already know that the first season is out on DVD from Media Blasters, and it's the second season that ADV's releasing. If you didn't know that, then you probably don't have enough interest in the series to justify picking up the first volume of the second season. It's as simple as that.

Plus, honestly, if you haven't watched the first season, then the second season will make no sense to you. Even if you've seen all the OVAs and the movie and everything, the TV series is so packed with its own separate plot points that there are nuances in this disc that will leave new viewers in the dust. This disc starts right smack in the middle of things and largely spends most of the time developing Belldandy and Keiichi's relationship, while throwing in random filler. There are a couple of cute Christmas episodes, as well as a few stray picnics, but even though each 25-minute standalone doesn't too much context to process, it's still something that will only appeal to fans of the series. If you aren't familiar with the backstory of Ah! My Goddess (Boy summons goddess via fated phone call, goddess + sisters move in, boy + goddess fall in love, etc), then this disc will be unbearably boring to you.

Truthfully, even knowing all the characters, I still find the four episodes on this DVD to be rather dull. It's nice to see Keiichi and his ever-docile woman get closer, but watching people go on dates is a bit of a bore. Add to that the fact that Belldandy has one of the most boring, non-confrontational personalities ever scripted, and it just makes the whole thing worse. Compared to the simple fun of the old OVAs, I don't think the series quite holds up. Its length makes it wont to prattle (as this rambling volume would suggest), the animation is inconsistent (and the artwork intermittently subpar), and the second season opening theme is unbearably obnoxious. If you're a huge Ah! My Goddess fan, you don't need me to tell you that you'll enjoy this disc. Otherwise, start with the OVAs or if you're lazy, maybe the movie, and decide later if you want to sit through hours of people going on dates.[TOP]

For me, it's always been really awkward to watch characters go on dates. In some respect, I want to cheer them on and I always want the guy to get the girl (or vice versa), but at the same time, but I always felt like kind of a creep for waiting in the shadows, hoping the characters would get to make out or something. Yeah, I'm always still happy for them when they do, but I still feel like a bit of a voyeur. It's kind of the same in live-action movies, when the characters are lip-locked for more than 30 seconds. You can't really help but start to squirm a little uncomfortably, especially if you're watching it with your parents.

But to stray from anime a bit, there's a scene from this weekend that I keep flashing back to. I was sitting in the stands behind third base at the Sox game, and I was sitting next to the most Bostonian guys ever. Picture your stereotypical Bostonite, with the thick accent (“'ay dude! We just got ta Kenmwo'! Weh da hell ah you?”), and that was the guy who was sitting next to me. Totally awesome. And, every time a Sox hitter struck out, this guy would exclaim to his friends, “Jesus, this guy sucks!”

Needless to say, while I was watching Disgaea volume two, the only thing I could think of the whole time was this Sox fan, shaking his head sadly, and saying, “Jesus, this show sucks!”

I'm sure that somewhere in this vast world of ours, there are a handful of hardcore fans of the Disgaea anime. I'm sure they could give you a laundry list of why this disc doesn't deserve to be roasted in a controlled brush fire, but I don't have access to it.

The main problem that the Disgaea anime faces is that it has no aim. There's a vague storyline that drags the characters in a general direction, but for the most part, viewers have to suffer through endless episodes of pointless fluff. Ah, the characters are stuck in a board game. Ah, the characters are hungry. Ah, the characters are talking about being hungry. Ah, the characters are being attacked by random things. Thank you, dear creators, you certainly do know how to capture the fancy of bored audiences worldwide.

It's not necessary for a show to have a riveting storyline in order to still be wildly exciting, but it has to have something. For instance, ludicrously fascinating characters, amazing portraits of human emotion, crazy fight scenes—something. Annoying stock characters walking around screeching at each other? Not an adequate excuse to waste time, disc space, and space on the animators' hard drives.

When I reviewed the first volume, I stated that only rabid fans of the game could possibly like this series. Gathering from the responses made by game fans in regards to that statement, I was apparently wrong. The consensus is that the series deviates too wildly from the game, and is also a pointless waste of time. So there you have it. If you like the game, you probably won't like the series. If you've never even played the game, you still probably won't like the series.

Jesus, this show sucks.[TOP]

In less depressing developments, Black Cat has been rolling out steadily, with volume three fresh on the shelves. It's refreshing to see that the series has improved since the first few episodes, but it still has a host of problems. With these next few episodes, Train discovers that his old friend Creed is back. With his return comes the introduction of the Apostles of the Stars, a renegade group of Chrono Numbers who are set on wiping the corruption from humanity and reserving the world for those who can harness the Power of Tao. Before you know it, it's Apostles versus Numbers in a pending conflict that can only culminate in the ultimate throwdown.

Unfortunately, while Black Cat has all the makings of a great, action-packed story, it's not very well scripted or paced. Trying to cram all of the manga into a 24-episode series leaves it very jumbled at times, especially since it wastes so much time with filler episodes. With the third volume, the Apostles of the Stars are very poorly explained, and even the introduction of Creed feels like an afterthought. Before you know it, there's explosions galore and civil unrest everywhere, but you don't really get a clear sense of why, how, or who's involved.

While the series was too slow at the beginning, now it's too fast. It doesn't help that there are way too many characters, many of whom are around just long enough to die. There are some nice moments every now and again where viewers are allowed to luxury of glimpsing into Train's thoughts, and can compare how he's changed over the series, but for the most part, it's a bit of a mad dash towards the final half.[TOP]

Alas, that's the end of this week's column. It's pretty short because of the convention, and I apologize, but I'll make up for it next time. Thanks for reading!

*sniff* You guys are so awesome. Ever since my plea for more pictures, you've been sending them in!! I could just about die from happiness, but if I did, I couldn't post all these pictures anymore, and then all my happy would go away.

So instead, I'll just post two Shelf Obsessed pictures, because I need to release all my positive energy somewhere.

The first one comes to us by way of Inari Akairo, who's pimped out her collection with some wicked cute CLAMP no Kiseki chess pieces! PLUS she has Fancy Lala, which is one of the most underrated shows in life.

The second one comes from Paul Bresin and his cute dog Smokey. Guh.

Thanks for sending me your pictures! Keep 'em rolling, folks! Whether you've got a basement full of DVDs, a few stray manga sitting atop your toilet, or a really sick Transformers collection, I want to see what constitutes your "shelf." Seriously, these pictures are awesome. Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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