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Shelf Life
The Laughing Woman

by Bamboo Dong,

Anything can happen in October—especially when it comes to baseball. As a Rockies fan, this month has been good to me. I haven't been this happy since the good ol' Blake Street Bomber days, and I'm sure my Bichette jersey is thrilled to extend its furlough from my closet. Overall, though, the playoffs have been pretty exciting this season. And weird. Swarms of insects? Talk about a Cleveland home field advantage!

Anyway, let's get this show on the road. Welcome to Shelf Life.

First up on my list was Pumpkin Scissors, a series named for the military “war relief” division that the characters are in. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but “Pumpkin Scissors” is really not the coolest name you could give a military squad. It doesn't really invoke fear or respect, and if I was playing against a softball team with the same name, I'd probably heckle them with my fists.

After a long and brutal war, a peace treaty was finally signed. Unfortunately, the country is still suffering from the ravages of war and the poverty it caused; trying to help is Pumpkin Scissors, a group comprised of a few soldiers whose job it is to provide war relief by shutting down evil nobles, helping to open collapsed railroad tunnels, and what not. The leader of the group is Alice, a noble who thinks that she should use her family status to help others, even though her own family thinks she's nuts. Everything changes when they meet a new guy, an ex-soldier who used to fight for a secret anti-tank squadron. Goofy and slightly oafish on the outside, he's actually an incredibly skilled and fierce fighter. His gimmick? He carries a blue lantern by his side; whenever he turns it on, it unleashes his super soldier powers and he becomes a tank-destroying demon.

Let's not lie. The blue lantern is a little silly. I realize it's probably psychological, and turning on the lantern probably has some kind of Pavlovian effect connecting him and his past training, but watching him dramatically turn on the light every episode is a little over the top.

Pumpkin Scissors is kind of interesting, if not a bit overdone at times when it talks about class equality. Yes, it's vitally important to Alice's character that she be constantly thinking about the difference between nobles and regular folk, but talking about it every time she's on camera gets a little cumbersome. Overall, the show is fun to watch at times, but you don't really take anything away from it in the end. At least there's a dog, and he is dreadfully cute.[TOP]

After my adventure with the previous title, I reached for the latest envelope from Manga Entertainment and was kind of surprised when I pulled it out. For those of you who have already seen Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, this will be nothing new for you, but for those of you who haven't, you can now get Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - The Laughing Man. Basically, the series is divided into a continuous story arc involving “the Laughing Man” and several stand alone episodes—these were compiled into movies and released as The Laughing Man and Individual Eleven.

Unlike other anime series that have been compiled into movies (namely the various Gundam ones), The Laughing Man actually makes sense. This is extremely exciting. Personally, I vastly preferred this continuous story to all the stand alone episodes, so being able to see it in one go is rather satisfying. You don't have anything breaking up the action, and for the most part, the pacing is very similar to the Solid State Society film that was made. As an extra, the movie comes with a second disc that includes some face time with various Japanese staff and cast members, and the Tachikomatic Days that were bundled with the episodes.

The one downside is, of course, time. With the TV series, there was plenty of time to explore the different types of technology, and how it affected everyone. Because so much of the series (and franchise) focuses on man's reliance upon technology, much of the appeal is in looking at each individual case. With the movie compilation, it just barrels through the storyline. It's cool if that's all you want, and you've only got two hours to spare, but for the full experience, I'd still recommend the series.

Think of this as Ghost in the Shell for lazy people. It has all the most important scenes, and you get a pretty good gist of what's going on. Say you're about to go out on a date with someone who, for some reason, is obsessed with this show. You can plow through this baby in two hours and wow him/her with your anime prowess. Or, if you're interested in the show, but you don't know if you want to invest all that time, Netflix this first to get your toes wet.[TOP]

Next up on my list is the second volume of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye.Now here's something interesting I learned. Apparently if you have a red third eye, it acts like a wifi receptor. You can log into the special Internet that they have and learn facts about people. This also classifies you as a “Third.” However, if you only have a blue eye, like the heroine, you don't have the same technological benefits, but you can control your chi and cut rocks with your finger. You don't get to be a “Third,” but imagine the job opportunities.

Still smarting from her encounter with this robot called Blue Breaker, Honoka takes some time to contemplate her past without her parents, as well as the strengthened relationship she now has with her new shipmates. It isn't long before the robot is back, though, so it's back out into the open with her own suit of armor.

I really wish they wouldn't spend so much time focusing on her and her fights. They're really not that interesting. Great, there's a girl in a robot zipping around trying to kill things. It's really not that exciting, especially since this series doesn't have the world's best visual effects and animation to begin with. I'd rather they focused more on the characters. They're the best part about the series. As goofy as the narrator still is, his ruminations about the characters and their pasts and the way that they've learned to cope with the harsh life around them plays a big part in making this series interesting.

The Third still isn't a series that really strikes my fancy in a big way, but it is steadily getting more and more interesting. It feels a little disjointed at times, but as we learn more about Honoka and her blue eye, it makes the scene transitions between her and the Third less awkward. With all the other series coming out this season, this show isn't at the top of my lists, but for as little known as it is, it's surprisingly not that bad.[TOP]

Tired of those bulky discs? Craving thinpaks? ADV just released the entirety of Goddannar, for maximum robot action. It's nothing spectacular, and as far as mecha shows go, it's really not the best, but it is only priced at $29.98 $69.98 (okay, I was looking at an old ridiculously cheap sale. It's not worth it for $70), so if you know an anime fan whose birthday is coming up… well, you could always settle for this.

The series takes place five years after monsters tried to destroy Japan, as is their nature to do so. At that time, a dashing young pilot was able to save the country with his mad fighting skills. Now that he's about to get married to another pilot whose life he saved, the beasts are back, and now he's got to save them all over again. Rah, rah robots. The twist is that the girl is only in high school, and no one in her class knows she's a super good pilot, even though her mom is the head of the defense program. Whatever.

In any case, it's a decent good time. Truthfully, I kind of forgot this series existed five minutes after I finished watching it, but like I said, if you need a birthday present…[TOP]

As far as other delectable boxsets are concerned, here's one for all the DBZ fans out there. If you've been looking for yet more chances to collect the series, you ought to be pretty happy about their new release of the third season. Heck, if you're not excited about it, then just reading all the exclamation marks on the box will give you that pep you're lacking. According to the packaging, it has “over 750 minutes of UNCUT” Dragonball Z SEASON THREE “ACTION!” “Digitally remastered!” WOAH! It contains “33 EXPLOSIVE EPISODES on 6 DISCS!”

Amidst all the All Caps lettering and the Explosive Font, I could barely contain my excitement, but there it was. To be fair, it's pretty exciting that Funimation is putting in so much effort to make sure DBZ fans have the uncut releases that they've been wanting, but it's not really for me. I will say, though, it's really nice being able to play through everything in marathon mode. This is a feature that more long-running series should adapt, because no one wants ending themes getting in the way of super martial arts action (right, Viz?), but unless you haven't seen the series and you don't already own it (and want to), then there's nothing very new here. Dragonball Z fans, you know what you like, so you don't need me to tell you about this box.[TOP]

That is all for this week. Enjoy, my friends. Feast.

Franklin Fang is no newbie when it comes to collecting anime and manga. In fact, this champion's been doing it since he was 12. When I was twelve, I was still collecting pretty rocks I found at the river, so this guy's something. At the time that he took this picture, there were loads more anime and manga behind the ones pictured, and also in his room. But, just to give us a taste, and to make us chartreuse with envy, here's part of his collection.

My goal for the next year is to befriend him so I can go and play with all his toys. Thank goodness the pictures are a little blurry, or else I'd be licking the screen.

Think you have some cool stuff? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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