Ain't Afraid of No Ghost
by Bamboo Dong,
|Mushi-shi DVD 1|
|Cat's Eye DVD 1|
|Shonen Onmyoji DVD 1|
|Still nothin'. What's going on?|
Welcome to Shelf Life.
Viz has a terrific track record of releasing some amazing live action movies—in the past, they've delivered Train Man, Linda Linda Linda, and others; now they're serving up some sports action with Ping Pong, a movie about friendship and determination, and how hardcore the world of high school table tennis can be.
The story follows two high school friends who have been playing the sport since they were young—Peco lives for the game, enjoying nothing more than the feeling of victory; meanwhile, Smile just does it to kill time and to spend time with his friend, whom he considers to be his hero. The problem is that in the end, neither of them really have what it takes to win; Peco doesn't think he needs to practice or work on his technique, Smile would rather go easy on all his opponents than take things seriously. It isn't until the Inter-High tournament that something changes for both of them, and both slowly begin to realize what it is that drew them to the sport in the first place, and what it's like to look for a personal hero, or live up to someone else's standards.
Although it's hard to pinpoint just one great thing about the movies (because really, the cinematography is great, the special effects are charming, the score is incredible, the script is compelling), it worth waxing lyrical about the characters, especially Peco. His clownish outlook on life is hilarious to watch, and it's obvious that he does things simply because he wants to. He doesn't let anything suss him, which leads to some great scenes. In fact, there are a lot of terrific scenes in the movie; although the film takes itself pretty seriously, the comedy scenes are pretty priceless. One favorite is when one of the players is distraught at having to go against an infamous Chinese player. His parents try to calm him down by saying, “He may not be that good! Some black people can't dance!” and in a look of utter shock, he looks up and says, “…Really?”
Ping Pong is a really great film, regardless of whether or not the viewer is a Ping Pong aficionado. If you are, all the more power to you, because the movie has some great action shots and sports talk. For everyone else, it's just a really fun movie about two guys whose friendship is cemented through one of the coolest sports ever invented.[TOP]
Like much of Viz's live action line, Ping Pong is very laid back, which is perfect for those lazy weekend days when you're too tired to go out. Of course, if you really want to slow things down, you can always check out Mushi-Shi.
If there's one thing that Funimation is really good at, it's making gorgeous artboxes. Over the years, their packaging for all their series has gotten really nice and really creative. Best of all, their boxes don't force you to throw out the disc case, which is a huge plus. Even their standard artboxes (just a plain ol' box without any of the bells and whistles and magnets and guillotines) look really nice, and Mushi-Shi is no exception. The first volume comes in a standard DVD case with a postcard and a detailed insert with information about the series and characters;all of this is placed inside a slipcase, which fits into a sturdy artbox, which fits into a box slipcover. It makes the disc a little hard to get to, but honestly, when are you ever going to want to watch this show so badly that you can't spend 30-seconds to take off all its slipcases?
Mushi are entities that are neither alive nor dead, yet at the same time, they are both. They are inanimate objects, but they can move, eat, leave progeny, and so forth. As explained in the series, it's as if you traced life down to its very origins, and reached the threshold between living beings and organic matter. Because of this, they can come in many shapes and forms. They can either form the basis of traveling swamps, the basis of sound or light—they can even be spirits that are caught between the human world and that of the non-living. In that respect, they're rather interesting to learn about, but beyond that supernatural appeal, they don't do much else.
As far as the supernatural goes, the series takes a very interesting twist on the genre. Exorcism shows are a dime a dozen, but the very concept of the mushi is quite unique, and that sets the series apart from all its competitors. That they play such a big part in everyday life makes them a great central topic, and one that makes you want to keep watching. All of the episodes are stand-alone, and feature a new type of mushi; their function and role in life is explained by Ginko, a Mushi-Shi who is traveling around the country to research them, and to help people whose lives have been affected by them.
The series has a dreamlike quality that's hard to describe, but it only takes one episode to experience. Much of this has to do with the gorgeous artwork, which uses its muted palette to give the series a foggy, subdued quality. For instance, in the first episode, Ginko encounters a boy whose calligraphy comes to life whenever he writes with his left hand. Just watching the characters flutter off the page and react to their new surroundings is a surreal experience, and one that will have you hooked for the remainder of the disc.
While Mushi-Shi is a very interesting show, it's also very hard to watch for an extended period of time. Because the pacing of each episode is so slow, it's easy to get bored. Sure, it's neat to find out all the different mushi, just like it's exciting to catch a new Pokémon, but after awhile, things get a bit stagnant. For those with longer attention spans, though, it's a rewarding experience. The atmosphere is very magical, and as long as you don't find yourself nodding off, you may very likely be charmed by the mushi, too.[TOP]
To liven things up a bit, I popped in the first disc of Cat's Eye, a show that harkens from 1983, and is currently being released by Imaginasian. To give you a sense of how old school this series is, I'm currently watching three women in unitards roller skate through an alley, being chased by the fuzz. These women, who pull off heists under the name Cat's Eye (and also run a coffee shop with the same moniker) also do a choreographed aerobics routine during the ending sequence, set to lyrics like, “Okay girls, work that body! Move your head back and forth. Stretch your arms, one, two. Shake your hips, right, left.” In short, this is some good stuff.
Like all thief shows, Cat's Eye has two very important elements: super smart thieves who can break into anything and steal just about everything—and a detective who can't stop them no matter how hard he tries. And it has the following, which fall under “Not necessary, but always freakin' awesome”: legwarmers, girls who shimmy under laser sensors on a rope, and jewelry heists. Just about anything with the word “heist” in it appeals to me, so Cat's Eye made me giddy from start to finish. Any random person can burglarize something, but it takes a really talented bunch of people to pull off a heist.
Considering its age, the show looks pretty good, too. The animation is pretty chunky, but it's hard to really care about that when you're having fun watching women in ridiculous outfits pull stunts that Sean Connery would be jealous of. It's like watching Charlie's Angels and Ocean's Eleven at the same time, and frankly, it's way too much fun, especially for fans of series like Lupin III (or even junk like St. Tail). This is something that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, so make yourself some snacks, pop open some decadent carbonated beverages, and kick back. This is the kind of stuff that makes robbery look cool.[TOP]
Sometime in July, possibly at Anime Expo, I remembered watching the trailer for an anime series during a panel that made me let out a loud guffaw. I hadn't been paying too much attention to the screen, as I was focused on writing up a panel report. I looked up, and the only thing I remember is seeing a giant phallus bearing down upon a very confused character.
Turns out, that show was Shonen Onmyoji, a supernatural series about one boy's quest to live up to, and possibly exceed, his grandfather's reputation as a spiritbuster. Ever since childhood, people have always referred to him as “Semei's grandson,” and nothing would please him more than to be able to make his grandfather proud, and finally get a name for himself. Unfortunately, he can't seem to see the same spirits that his grandfather does. Luckily, he has help from a spirit creature who occasionally transforms into a dude with big muscles and sprouts magic spells. Together, they sharpen his onmyoji skills, all while destroying flaming skulls and gargantuan flesh-colored penis demons.
The first thing that anyone will note is that this is a very good-looking show. The colors are vibrant and sharp, and all of the frames are consistent and pleasant to look at. On the flipside, the bright colors and cute critters make it a little hard to take the series seriously as a supernatural show. Giant skulls just don't seem that harmful when you've got a furry sidekick curled around your neck. But, hey, no one ever said that all ghost-busting shows had to be scary.
Although the series has the potential to turn into a monster-of-the-week spectacle, the first volume does a good job of straying away from that. While new spirits do keep popping up, most of the focus is on the main character and his quest to become something great. The banter between him and his spirit guide keep the series lively and fun, and although the show has the potential to get old after awhile, right now it's something that would easily appeal to the Cartoon Network Naruto/Bleach crowd.[TOP]
That's it for now. Tune back next week for more hot anime
We've got a really interesting collection this week, which comes to us from Randall Miyashiro. Rather than dealing with the problem of ever-expanding shelves, he throws away all his DVD cases and puts the discs in binders. And, because he's really awesome, he pulled out all his discs and grouped them into 70-DVD sets. Oh my gosh.
Some shots of his LD collection, including some signed LDs:
Now that's what I call a collection.
If you're interested in showing off your stuff, send your jpg to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!
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