Shelf Life
Hell's Angel

by Bamboo Dong,

When I first started writing this, I was sitting aboard a Boeing 757, on my way to Denver so I could cluster around a bar with my friends and watch a couple of the World Series games, as well as make a pilgrimage to the Pepsi Center to see the Avs square off against the Wild. Suddenly, I heard the words, “She's evil! She's evil!” somewhere within my immediate area. I looked to the row of seats diagonally in front of me, and there was a little 2-year-old, staring at me. “She's scary!” she exclaimed. It was only more awkward when the father turned to look at me, and said, “No, she's not scary.”

I didn't even know what to think. Welcome to Shelf Life.

What would you be willing to sacrifice in order to bring justice to those who make your life miserable? Is revenge worth spending an eternity in Hell? Is instantaneous relief of a problem worth it when you realize that you'll eventually share the same fate as those you hate? These are the questions that are posed in Hell Girl, a series that, on the surface, is simply a supernatural thriller, but raises a plethora of questions under its exterior.

Rumor has it that there's a website that can only be accessed at midnight. Called Hell Correspondence, it lets you input the name of the person you'd like to damn, and Hell Girl will offer you the chance to exact your vengeance—but only if you're willing to spend your entire afterlife chilling out in the underworld. Once you make the pact, she and her posse will investigate that person's sins, and eventually plunge the victim into a ghoulish nightmare and cart them off to Hell. It's like a Death Note, only the consequences are much worse, and the Whois traces to whatever company Satan has outsourced his soul harvesting to (Registrant: FUNimation Entertainment).

Amongst those kids who end up using the site's services is a girl who's being tormented by bullies, a girl with a creepy stalker, a boy falsely accused of murder, a girl who's angry at her vet's malpractice, and a girl who hates her murderer boss. Some would argue that being picked on at school is not worth being sentenced to an eternity of pain, suffering, and ungodly terror, but that's just one of the issues that make the series so interesting. If you're going to wish for someone's murder, it only seems fair that you'd get the same fate, but this is left to the viewer's own pondering. There also seems to be some backstory behind Hell Girl and how she came to be saddled with her job function, but the first disc doesn't do much to expound upon it.

It's definitely an interesting series, even though it seems like it could get repetitive after awhile. Each episode is laced with atmosphere, and it really does raise a lot of questions about revenge and the paybacks and morality of it. Hopefully the series will start offering some of its own opinions on these matters, though; as fun as it is watching people on extended acid trips, it has the potential to get old. And, for whatever reason, there hasn't been any exposition regarding any of the underworld characters that help with the reaping, so they don't seem to serve a function other than to look content with their careers. I'm assuming that will change in the next few volumes, though, so for now, I'll just wait and see what happens.[TOP]

Over the months, I've come to enjoy the packages that I get from Imaginasian. There's something so charming about all the shows that they've licensed—something very quaint and genuine. One series that's slowly grown on me is Nobody's Boy Remi, which should really just be renamed Remi's Life Sucks: The Bronze Years. Almost every single episode is a testament to why bad things happen to good people, and even all the happy episodes are soured by the narrator foreshadowing doom and heartbreak.

Remi and Vitalis have grown quite fond of each other throughout their travels. The latter is like a father figure to the boy, and goes out of his way to make sure Remi is well versed in reading, writing, and a variety of musical instruments. Their life is rough, but it's manageable—until Vitalis gets thrown in jail for two months. Luckily, after only two days of misery, Remi and his menagerie are taken aboard a houseboat by a kind woman and her wheelchair-bound son. Here's the kicker—they're actually his biological family. And here's the other kicker—according to the narrator, he won't find this out for another few/several years. Why, Remi, can't your life be good for more than two months? In any case, he finds his way back to Vitalis, only now with a burning hole of loneliness in his heart.

As touching as these tales of tragedy and recovery are in this woeful Bildungsroman, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. This is a long series, and as a result, it feels like each story arc takes forever. Each episode drags on for what seems like eternity, and as much as I like the characters and want to follow their adventures, I find it very hard to want to sit down and watch the show. I like the story, and I'd gladly read it in the original novel format, but I can't imagine ever re-watching the entire series. Really, it's a well-produced show, and its musical score reminisces of an after-school PBS special, but it's just so slow that I can't imagine what I would do with it once I owned my own copy. If you're willing to put through the effort and patience to sit through this, though, then you should definitely give this a shot. It'll definitely make your life seem pretty awesome by comparison.[TOP]

It's shows like Remi that make you realize that all the other woe-is-me anime characters out there are just whiny little brats who need to pop a pill and move on with life. Wanting to avoid that, I rooted around until I found a show that I knew would have happy-go-lucky characters that vomit sunshine whenever they talk. I ended up with School Rumble. The girl has her crying moments, but for the most part, her chipperness is pretty infectious.

Considering all the anime series that involve students getting locked inside PE supply closets, you'd think that they'd change their safety regulations so that the door can be opened from both sides. Perhaps they have, but some shows are just stuck in a bygone era that makes molestation on school grounds much easier to come by. Luckily, the heroine of School Rumble doesn't get stranded for too long, but the first episode on the second disc is a good indication of just how darned resourceful and cheerful this girl is. Anyone else who gets trapped in a closet (R. Kelly??) would probably dissolve into panic attacks, but Tenma just pretends she's on a deserted island, going as far as to set off the fire sprinklers in an effort to get some water.

If anything, I think this show is slowly growing on me. At first, I was incredibly turned off by the nonstop repetition of Tenma trying to nab Kurasuma, and Harima trying to nab Tenma, but the different scenarios that they find themselves in are pretty entertaining. What other show lets you watch students play pool hockey and ruminate over curry for 30 minutes? Other characters are introduced in this volume as well, bringing in another unrequited love into the mix.

School Rumble would probably be awful if it took its pining too seriously. Luckily, it doesn't seem to care too much, and neither do the characters. It takes each situation as it comes, and runs at full speed. Compared to a lot of the other school romances out there, in which one jilted date has the impact of a national disaster, it's kind of nice to see kids doing such goofy things for attention. It tells you that maybe failed relationships aren't the end of the world, and that missing prom isn't worthy of slitting your wrists in the bathtub. The more I watch this series, the more I like it. Everyone who's ever seen my shelves knows that I like anime series that are drenched in tears and agony, but sometimes, you just need to laugh. I wasn't too hot on the first volume, but this second volume may be the catalysis that starts turning me around.[TOP]

Personally, every time I come back to Colorado, I always look to the mountains and imagine how great it would be if I could take my (unsouped) Accord around those tight turns, and become the new local legend. I've played out the same fantasy in my head for ages, and one day, I'll make it happen.

Needless to say, I was stoked when I saw that I received the second season of Initial D. Seriously, these nifty little boxes that Funimation has been releasing of old Tokyopop stuff are really great. They look great (if a bit bootleg-like), and they're total space savers. They're also pretty much the same exact discs that were originally released, so you don't have to worry about missing anything.

The second season is very similar to the first, only there are new opponents, new tracks, and new auto parts. That's… actually, yeah, that's a pretty fair description.

Initial D is a rather polarizing show. You either watch it and exclaim, “This show is SWEET!,” or you're turned off in seconds. In an effort to be fair, I'll list the pros and cons of each. Pros. The music in the Japanese version is incredibly awesome. The Eurobeat is catchy and it makes the cheesy CG seem 10 times cooler than it really is. Takumi is kind of a whiny brat sometimes, but he's cool and underrated, and who doesn't like underdogs? Also, drifting is sweet. Cons. Don't drive while listening to Initial D music. You may think it's awesome, but the highway patrol doesn't feel the same way. Also, Takumi's a little bitch. Furthermore, the character designs are as much of an acquired taste as kiviak.

There. That having been said, Initial D is a show that you generally know beforehand whether or not it'll appeal to you within the first five minutes. It's so simplistic that it doesn't take long to figure out where you stand in the spectrum. And, to be honest, if you didn't like the first season, what are you doing with the second? But, if you're unfamiliar with the series, it's worth checking out, especially if you fall into one of the following categories.

You May Like Initial D if:

  1. You liked the third Fast and the Furious movie.
  2. You like to get wasted at Dave & Busters and play all those racing games.
  3. Your vocabulary consists of words like “dude,” “dag,” and “off-the-hook.”

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to watch a few more episodes and pretend I'm a car.[TOP]

That's it for this week. I have to go cry about sports now.

This week's pictorial adventure comes from James Penton. As a "poor college student," he claims that he only buys stuff that he really, really enjoys, so everything he owns is stuff that he think has replay potential. This picture was sent a few months ago, so we can imagine that his collection has at least doubled in size, but we can agree that this guy's got seriously good taste. James, if you're out there reading this, I'd love an updated picture.

Have a collection you're totally proud of? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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