Anime, Anime, Anime
by Bamboo Dong,
|Le Chevalier D'Eon DVD 3|
|Linda Linda Linda|
|009-1 DVD 1|
|Suzuka DVD 1|
|Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo DVD 2|
Luckily, I have this column to cheer me up. And the fact that Anime Expo is a mere >2 weeks away! I'm a little sad that it'll be in Long Beach this year, since I've grown to really love the Anaheim location, but there'll be a certain charm in seeing Sailor Moons and Yunas dart about in the ghetto. If you're planning on going to the con, check out our panel on Friday! It'll be a guaranteed good time, plus you'll get to meet some wicked cool people. And me.
Welcome to Shelf Life.
Over the past year, I've delighted in reviewing every live-action disc that floats my way. Whether it's an epic love story like Train Man, or a monstrous concoction of nuts, bolts, and boredom like Tetsujin, I love checking out movies that otherwise might have flown under my radar. Up this week is Linda, Linda, Linda, a film that charmed its way into my heart after only a few scenes.
The film is an anthem to high school and a gentle reminder that in the end, the only thing that matters is the memories you make. Taking its title from a popular song by Japanese punk band,The Blue Hearts, the movie follows a group of girls who are trying to learn three of the band's songs for their upcoming school festival rock show. Having just split with a few previous band members, and desperately needing a vocalist, they recruit the first female they see—a Korean foreign exchange student named Son. With limited time on their hands, the girls scrounge up practice time any time they can, even sneaking into the school late at night to use the equipment room.
In the end, though, it's not really about whether they succeed or not (they do, and it's an amazing moment). It's really just about being with your friends and working towards something great. As one of the characters said as they congregated on a roof after a practice session, “You know, it's these moments that we'll remember the most.” And, just like the characters are creating their own memories, the audience gets to experience something terrific, too. The cast does a remarkable job, pegging the awkward earnestness of teenage youth; by the end of the movie, you kind of wish you could be there in the gymnasium, cheering on their accomplishments.
Of course, for a movie about creating a band, it's only fitting that the soundtrack is worth waxing lyrical about. Musical nuts will be familiar with the name James Iha, whose insane list of accomplishments include playing guitar for The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as writing and singing some of their songs, producing some solo stuff, and eventually joining A Perfect Circle. He also wrote the soundtrack for Linda, Linda, Linda (here's a brief video of him talking about the experience), a soulful collection of guitar pieces that perfectly complements the lackadaisical pace of the movie.
Seriously, this movie is good stuff. I haven't been able to stop listening to “Linda, Linda” for weeks, now, and even the girls' version has a certain charm to it. For anyone who's ever tried to start their own band or been part of a team, this movie will take you back to all the good moments.[TOP]
Since we started off this week's column with a movie about a quartet of wicked cool chicks, we might as well keep the ball rolling with more powerful women. Only this time, instead of rocking out on an instrument, the heroine of the next title has everything she needs inside of her own body—including super-sensitive hearing that lets her hear bullets as soon as they're fired, and automatic breast guns.
“Automatic breast guns?” you ask, “How do those work? I know the fem-bots in Austin Powers had them, but that was a movie. Anime is real.”
Anime is real, so I've put a lot of thought into this, and I believe I've come up with an answer.
In the insert booklet provided for the first volume of 009-1, it mentions that the lead character, Mylene Hoffman, is able to shoot “bio-bullets” from her breasts. Here, I've drawn a small diagram of how these bullets could be ingested into her body. We'll assume that she has a diet extremely high in iron. Most of that iron is extracted in her bio-processor, which, through the magic of super Western Bloc cybernetic technology, is able to create bullets that have an iron casing. The propellant would have to be some kind of bio-powder, also produced in her bio-processor, that possibly generates a sick amount of ATP when struck. (No, this is not very possible, nor is it very efficient, nor is it realistic, but we're relying on crazy cybernetic technology here!) The bullets would feed up into both breasts, using a typical machine gun belt system, and fire out of her nipples. And, of course, whenever she's throwing house parties, she can change her weapon attachments into a frozen yogurt machine. It totally makes sense.
Created during the late 60s, Shotaro Ishinomori's 009-1 manga explored a world where the Cold War never ended, resulting in a world divided into two: the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc. Constantly at odds with each other, the two sides are always producing new dangerous foes, ranging from mad scientists to murderous little girls. Naturally, someone's got to fight the bad guys and make sure that precious information doesn't get into the wrong hands. That's where the Nine Number Group comes in; staffed by bodacious chicks in tight dresses and wicked heels, these spies work for a Western Bloc intelligence agency. Mylene is, of course, one of the best, and between her finely tuned cyborg body and her ability to seduce just about anyone, she's the person to call when you have an important mission.
Surrounding itself in the gritty atmosphere of the Cold War, 009-1 is all about style and attitude. The villains are maniacal, the women are packed with punch, and watching any given episode is like reliving a James Bond movie. All the episodes are standalone one-shots, at least for now, and follow Mylene as she goes through different missions.
The characters are easily the best part of the series. All of the women are a ton of fun to watch, and Mylene is definitely one of the coolest heroines ever created. She switches between sweet and sexy at the drop of a hat, and she radiates with so much positive energy that you can't help but root for her. And, given her dark and tumultuous past, her sunny disposition is really quite something.
Although the series carries the political undertones of its time, it doesn't smother you with woe or idealism. Yes, it's East versus West, but it doesn't paint either side as particularly worse than the other, and provides the perfect backdrop for a spy show where allegiances are constantly shifting. Of course, one of the downsides is that it's sometimes hard to figure out who the “good” guys are. Not because of the ambiguity between good and bad—it's largely because most of the characters look the same. All the guys are bug-eyed creeps, and all the women are svelte fembots. Since new characters are introduced in almost every episode… it gets a little hard to figure out who's who.
Still, 009-1 is a great show for anyone who can't get enough Double-0 action. If you're looking for a summer blockbuster—in episodic anime form—then this may be the show for you.[TOP]
Now, onto something else.
Someone needs to tell Funimation that their taglines just aren't working for them. Remember Rumbling Hearts? “Betrayal is a bitch.” Now there's Suzuka, which carries the tagline, “Love is not a spectator sport.” Who comes up with this stuff?
Before I start talking about Suzuka, I really want to get something off my chest.
I hated the manga. Hated it. Hated the fanservice, hated the archetypal college girls who lived in the main character's apartment complex, hated how ridiculous it was.
But, although I started the disc with a lot of eye-rolling and skepticism, I found myself rather interested by the end. For me, having the musical score and the acting and, most of all, the timing, really helped. And, luckily, the side characters really don't get that much screen time.
Highlighting the growing relationship between Suzuka, the rising star of the high school track team, and Yamato, the hapless next-door neighbor (and son of the landlady), the story plays out like a standard high school romance show. You have your over-eager guy who's jonesin' to start dating the cool, aloof athletic chick, and you have your aforementioned girl, who's slowly warming up to the guy, but not before she reveals some big character angst trait, like a dead boyfriend or daddy issues. And, of course, you have your side characters. There's also the irritating best friend who messes things up, the quiet girl who would do anything to go out with the lead guy, the sister figure, and the handful of lushes.
So really, you have all the ingredients you need for a fairly inoffensive romance. What makes Suzuka engaging to watch, though, is Suzuka herself. As confused as Yamato is about her actions and her emotions, so is the audience. Like every mean girl ever scripted, she has a sweet side, too, and probably either a dead boyfriend or daddy issues. Having not seen past the first five episodes (or read past the first volume of the manga), I can't confirm this, but something is going on. My only real concern at this moment is that the show may run out of steam within its 26-episode run. Things are fine now because it's only the first disc, but if there's not going to be a storyline outside of some guy trying to woo a girl... well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
Having trudged through my fair share of shonen romances, I can't say that Suzuka really stands out too much in my mind. It's like the frozen corndog of romance anime. You can heat one up whenever you're hungry, and you may even crave one in the middle of the night, but it's not exactly a delicacy. It just kind of exists, hoping you'll eat it. And you know what, you might as well eat it. It's at least worth sticking on your queue, but I wouldn't sweat bumping it to the top.[TOP]
What is a delicacy, though, is Le Chevalier D'Eon. I've said it once, and I'll say it again and again until I'm dead—Le Chevalier D'Eon is one of the best darned anime shows to come out this year. Nay—it's one of the best anime shows to come out, period.
There isn't a single thing about this show that doesn't make me jump around every time I get a new volume. The artwork is amazing, the meticulously rendered backgrounds stop my respiratory airflow, the music makes me giddy, and the story keeps me on my toes. Every single time someone says to me, “there's no good anime out,” I tell them, “Bitch, no, watch Chevalier.”
ADV has been pumping out these discs roughly once a month, and it's a good thing, too. The story has been cantering along at a fast pace, and there's yet to be a single episode after which I didn't anxiously skip forward to the next one. With the Four Musketeers in Russia, there's hardly any room to catch a breath. Within a few episodes, and after befriending the empress, thwarting her assassination, and dealing with a completely unpredicted plot twist, the characters find themselves neck-deep in a web of political conspiracies and betrayals. When it comes to good storytelling, this show has it perfected.
Somewhat surprisingly, the series has gotten to the point where the supernatural elements aren't even really noticeable anymore. They're still there, and they still play a huge part in the show, but they don't really seem “supernatural” anymore. Le Chevalier is written so well, and pays so much attention to natural dialogue and realistic artwork, that all the supernatural elements seem completely plausible. It's almost as though you could watch members of Parliament discussing a new law, have a few zombies stroll through, and it would be completely believable as a historical account.
The show is that good.
I've always been a big fan of politics and history, so for me, Le Chevalier D'Eon is a dream come true. It's a smorgasbord of historical cameos and a feast of wily political intrigue, and to top it off, all of the main characters are so richly developed that you really start to feel camaraderie with them. If this isn't on your shelf, then you need to do something to make that happen. Ask the universe for this show, then go out and buy it. You won't regret it.[TOP]
Alright, it's nearing closing time. What better way to wrap up this column than with some really long nostril hairs?
BoBoBo-Bo Bo-Bobo Vol. 2 was sent to me recently, and it's a huge improvement from the first one. For starters, there are actually real, legitimate subtitles. If you recall, the first volume merely had dubtitles, which was pretty obnoxious considering the English dub is heavily rewritten from the original.
Well, now, you can have your immature humor any way you like it! Whether it's in the creatively changed English version, or the original Japanese, you can bask in the glory of green aliens, noodles, pleated-skirt-wearing men, and strange creatures that have an odd proclivity for crossdressing.
Did that last sentence just intrigue you? If it did, you should check out this show, either on DVD or on TV. Don't expect to have your mind blown, though. Its short attention span is really fun for an episode or so, but beyond that, it actually gets a bit old. There's only so much “wackiness” that someone can take before they start to grow weary of it all, and for me, my Bo^7 saturation limit is somewhere around 1.47 episodes.
But hey, if you have a penchant for scene after disjointed scene of rapidfire jokes and goofy caricatures, then by all means, eat this up with a spoon. You'll even get the joy of owning a DVD with a cover featuring some cone king with a giant ice cream turd on his neck. Good times.[TOP]
I just said “turd” in an anime review. That's my cue to call it quits. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you guys in two weeks! If you're going to Anime Expo, stop by our panel!! And please, please, if you happen to stop by Starbucks before you get there, bring me a caramel macchiato. I'm going to need it.
Hoo boy, this one's a doozy.
This week's Shelf Obsessed comes courtesy of someone who only identifies themselves as icepick314. Either they really like icepicks, or they really like Sharon Stone. After this person's first two years of collecting anime, there were 150 VHS tapes. Then there are the DVDs. And the manga. And a lot of the DVDs have had to be put into thinpaks, for space.
Fun facts about this person's collection:
Most expensive DVD - 10th Anniversary Tenchi Muyo Boxset - $800
Most double-dipping - Neon Genesis Evangelion - VHS, DVD, Platinum
Cowboy Bebop - US DVD, Japanese 5.1, US Remix
Gunslinger Girl - Japanese PS2 game release (which came with TV series DVDs), Japanese boxset, US release
"Why the hell did I buy this when I can't even watch it?" - Air Blu-Ray boxset
I didn't even know how to put all these on one page... so I didn't even try.
I just... wow. Note, pretty much all of these pictures show different DVDs. I'm speechless. I am without speech.
Here's some highlights (and this is like, 1/10 of their collection):
Well, don't be daunted by that staggering display. Have pictures of your anime/manga/figure/plushie/full-size-body-pillow collection? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!
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