Shelf Life
Jane Air

by Bamboo Dong,

Shelf Worthy
Air DVD 1
Slayers Season 1 Set
Xenosaga DVD 1
BVUSA's release of Wings of Honneamise
Punching walls and destroying my own stuff has always been a good source of anger management for me. During my sophomore year of undergrad, one of the texts we had to use for an advanced math class was Mathematical Analysis: An Introduction by the highly damnable Andrew Browder. I later discovered that he once taught at my university; had I known that, I would've walked by his mailbox every day, just to shake my fist. Unfortunately, his emeritus status is also probably the reason why that book was used so often by the math department.

Anyway, I remember wracking my brains over a particular proof one day, when I became so enraged that I grabbed the book, started beating it against my desk, and in a maelstrom of hate, hurled it across my room. The book ripped apart on impact, contents scattering everywhere. Most of the cover had been torn off, several of the pages were clinging to the binding by mere threads of glue, and suffice it to say, the book was in terrible condition. Now, I'm the kind of person who keeps all my books in pristine condition, and never even marks in my textbooks. After my anger abated, I started at the tattered remnants of my book, realized what I had done, and burst into tears.

As you mull over the last thing you destroyed that you totally regretted, I welcome you to Shelf Life.

Here's a blast from the past for you—The Slayers. Heralding from 1995, the first season is now available in the US once again, this time from Funimation. Undoubtedly, the first thing you'll notice is the packaging. With four discs bundled into a slipcase that looks like it was tossed into the $4 bin in a bootleg shop somewhere in Chinatown, it certainly isn't the prettiest thing in the world. Granted, the source artwork is over a decade old, but the cover looks like something that was kicked out of a ratty Lexmark inkjet printer. And, despite touting that the show has been digitally remastered, the actual video doesn't look that great, either.

Luckily, what made it such a fan-favorite in the 90s still gets the job done...for those of us who hail from that era. This show is genuinely funny, in the way that only old series can pull off—sweat drops, super-deformed transformations, ridiculous property damage—all the stuff that worked back in the day just because it was “back in the day.” Plus, Megumi Hayashibara is truly spectacular in her role as Lina, and if you were ever one of those kids who crouched in the back of dark anime clubs, laughing at her scream indignantly about her breast size, then this is something that will send all those memories flying back.

Slayers has all the staples of a fantasy anime series—it has a sorceress, a warrior, and bizarre villains that won't leave them alone. Throw in some dragons, some magical spells, and a million scenes of people waving their hands over glowing objects, and you've got something that will work for a few seasons. Lina Inverse is a shrimpy-looking sorceress who's got a ridiculous amount of energy, and talent to match. She uses her skills to steal from bad guys and help whoever needs her abilities. After being confronted by some bad guys, she discovers that a treasure she stole from them earlier is something that they desperately want, so the chase is on.

As much as I'm trumpeting the goodness of this series, though, I have to admit that although I liked this show in the 90s, I don't know that it's something I'd re-watch in its entirety again, other than a few 5-minute bursts of nostalgia now and again. Slayers is a show that reminds me of staying up all night in the video rooms at my earliest anime conventions; it's a show that reminds me of listening to people karaoke Lost Universe songs at 3AM… but let's face it, it's 2007. There's better shows out there. If you have the same kind of nostalgia for Slayers that I do, then this might be worth it, just for old times' sake. For those new fans, though, I recommend Netflixing the first couple of discs first.[TOP]

Since I started this column with Slayers, I can only move up in video quality, because seriously, all nostalgia aside, the video looks like ass. Comparing the transfer on that show to that of the next title is like watching one of those Claritin commercials that show you drastically your vision improves when you no longer have crippling sinus problems.

Chock full of cute little girls and cute little creatures, Air is one of the most visually pleasing shows out there right now. The art is bright and happy, the character designs are conventionally pretty, and because of its recent age, it's magnificently crisp. Personally, I think the music is great, too, if only because I'm addicted to harem music.

Air is based on one of those games where, if you play your cards right, you get to sleep with as many ladies as you want. But, like most of the successful game-based anime series out there, you can barely tell, which is nice. The story begins when a young man wanders into town, hoping to earn some money by putting on puppet shows. He's made it his life mission to find a certain winged girl in the skies that his deceased mother always talked about. In town, he befriends a small gaggle of girls, all of whom capture his interest with their earnestness, their desire for (platonic, because this is family-friendly) friendship, and their solemn wish to fly.

Perfect for those days when you're too lazy to get off your comfy Ikea couches, this series tumbles along at a very gentle pace. All of the characters get along, none of the conflicts are too taxing, and it seems like no one is ever upset or angry—just sad, but quietly. Although the lack of action would usually make a series more dull, it doesn't seem to be the case with Air. It's a very dreamy show that places most of its focus on the characters' pasts and aspirations, which makes for a very calming viewing experience.

It's worth noting that ADV kept in Misuzu's trademark “gao!”s. This is spectacular for two reasons: 1. “Gao” is an intensely cute sound, and should be kept in at all costs. If dinosaurs actually said “gao,” they probably wouldn't be extinct right now. 2. I'm glad they didn't cut it out, or replace it with something like “roar,” because somewhere out there, a small legion of fanboys would have cried themselves to sleep.

Oh, and something for the ladies: despite its lackadaisical atmosphere, Air has a ridiculous abundance of cute things. “Gao”s aside, it also has a mountain of cute dinosaur plushes, and sloth plushes. It also has a dog named Potato that looks like a pile of mashed potatoes (I am proud to say that I have a Potato plush, which is top-heavy and amazing). Truly, the mark of a good show. More animals should look like popular food items. Seriously, though, whether it's cute girls you want, or cute animals, or just a reason to kick back, Air has it all. It's not the next great masterpiece, but if the summer wind could somehow materialize into an anime series, it would look something like this.[TOP]

And onwards we go, from wanting to fly, to actually flying. From junky Slayers transfers, to pretty Air art, to the majesty of High Def.

The Wings of Honneamise is one of those classics that will be talked about until the end of fandom. It represents hope, it represents innovation, and it represents some damned good storytelling. One of the titles that made Gainax the superchamps that they are today, the film tells of man's desire to go into space, and the harsh political climate that enveloped the space race.

But I'm not really here to talk about the movie. Honestly, if you haven't seen the movie, rent it right now. As an anime fan, you're almost obligated to watch that movie. I'm here to talk about Bandai Visual's re-release of the movie. Namely, why they felt the desire to spank fans over the buttocks with their insipid price points. This is something that's been talked about over and over again, but each time, it still stings.

It's fantastic that BVUSA has chosen to release Honneamise in both HD and Blu-Ray. It's a terrific movie, and it deserves a magnificent release. In fact, the Blu-Ray disc looks amazing on my player, and the sound is great. But why, pray tell, would anyone in their normal minds fork out 79.99 US dollars to own this bloody thing TWICE. For $80, fans can choose to either buy the two-volume HD-DVD + DVD box, or the two-volume BD + DVD box. There's no way to buy just the HD, or just the Blu-Ray. Great, now you can watch it on your high def player, and on your standard def laptop, but that privilege is not worth $80. If you think it is, please email me and I will give you an address (mine) for you to send your abundance of cash to. Seriously, the movie looked fabulous on my Blu-Ray player, but what about those of us who only want one copy of it?

Furthermore, the dub is not excellent at all. The translation is shoddy, and oftentimes completely loses the meaning of the original dialogue. Where in the Japanese, the characters would talk about the depreciating value of currency, or their aimless journey through life, the English dub would sometimes be nothing but meaningless water-cooler talk. This isn't Bandai Visual's fault, as they used the old Manga dub, but if I'm going to pay $80, then I want a new, accurate dub, with a special feature that will climb out of the screen, follow me to the bathroom, and sing to me every time I'm on the toilet. Is that so much to ask for?

Bottom line: everyone should watch this movie, but unless BVUSA starts releasing this on individual discs, it's not worth it.[TOP]

Moving along, a few years ago, I remember being drawn to the PS2 release of Xenosaga I because of just how darned pretty it looked. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of it, and when I finally did sit down and play it, I was more disappointed than a fat kid in a famine. I know it was really popular with just about everyone else, but I like games that actually let me play the game. Cut scenes are great, but if I'm going to be sitting around for an hour, just to be able to fiddle with my analog stick for five minutes, then I'd rather watch a movie.

Cue Xenosaga: The Animation, the most redundant anime property ever produced. Based on the video game, the series is an almost scene-by-scene copy of the cut scenes. The only difference is that this is in 2D (except for the spaceships, which are conspicuously rendered to clash with the backgrounds as much as possible).

For those unfamiliar with the game, it takes place sometime in the far, far future. Our heroine is a gal named Shion, an brilliant engineer who works for an organization dedicated to fighting enemies called Gnosis. One of their projects is KOS-MOS, a humanoid weapon that has the power to wipe out the enemy with a punch and a bullet. When a vicious Gnosis attack wipes out their ship and steals a mysterious but powerful object, it becomes KOS-MOS and Shion's duty to go get it back.

The one nice thing about this series is that it does let you plow through the storyline of the game without having to lift a finger—and you can pause it whenever you want to, without having to worry about saving your status. At the same time, it is a bit redundant. For a game that was mostly cut scenes, what's the point of just redoing them in 2D? Bad 2D, at that. The animation is questionable most of the time, especially when it's paired with 3D animation. In most of the space battles, the ships look like they were made by an Adult Swim intern, and they look really out of place. The artwork is of questionable aesthetic quality, too. Everything looks very clunky, be it the robots or the characters, whose faces slightly mutate in every other frame.

Although it will likely appeal to those who have already played the game, previous knowledge of it is not necessary. The story is very straightforward, and though you won't get that unsettling feeling of déjà vu of running around the empty hallways, trying to find deliver a hot meal to a ship captain, it's something that could possibly entice many to seek out used copies of the game at their local GameStop. The series isn't without its problems, but for what it's is, it's not bad. It's certainly better than a lot of the other video game-based anime series out there.[TOP]

Well, that's that. Saying goodbye is always sad, but we'll reconvene in a week, so it's okay.

This week's shelves are here courtesy of Josh Habel, who hit my weak spot with a baah-ing goat. It's no secret that those Last Exile plush goats are maybe one of the cutest things ever manufactured by man. Well, this guy's girlfriend just one-upped them. She cut a hole in one of the goats (;__;), and stuck in one of those noise-making cylinders that they sell to kids. And tadah, a real bleating goat!

A Youtube video of the goat in action is available.

Oh, and he has shelves, too.

I'm still thinking about that goat. So cute.

Wanna show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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