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Shelf Life
The Santa Claus

by Bamboo Dong,

I recently bought a good friend the first season of Connections on DVD. Starring the historian James Burke, the series was made in the late 70s and follows historical discoveries like a detective story, tracing how the invention of radar came from ancient tests for gold purity, and what not. It's a fascinating series, albeit a bit pessimistic. For instance, the first episode shows Burke wandering through a desolate post-apocalypse-scape, asking viewers whether or not they have the strength to kill a fellow man for his supplies—or if they would be the ones to be killed. And if the former, would they have the proper experience to know how to kill a guy.

Heavy stuff. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Few shows have incited the kind of burning hatred within me as Itsudatte My Santa!, an OVA whose 55-minute runtime was 54 minutes longer than I cared to writhe through. Although I'm generally not a big fan of Ken Akamatsu's works, I consider the Love Hina Christmas Special to be one of the best holiday anime to ever be released, so I had high hopes for this fun little diddy. What I ended up watching was less of a holiday special than it was a ringing endorsement for low self-esteem and wet dreams.

Like most Akamatsu series, the main character is a pathetic loner who's been living by himself since childhood. His parents don't even come home for Christmas, and he spends every holiday season alone. This year is different. This year, he's approached by a youthful girl who begs him to let her spend the night with him, and allow her to cook for him and throw a magnificent party.

Oh Ken! You little rascal! What a plot twist!

Claiming to be “a Santa Claus,” the girl's magical abilities allow her to summon any item that starts with an S, a skill that even lets her defeat a ragtag team of extraneous delinquents. Of course, she also has quite the temper! After bursting out of the shower, she realizes too late that she's still naked, and takes out all her anger on Santa (the poor chap also gets beaten up when she realizes that her proposal of “I want to spend the night with you!” sounds dirty). The poor guy only gets a break when she kisses him, and imbibes him with the realization that he does have friends who care.

In the second episode, they go to the beach. And a hot spring.

Why anyone would waste their time watching this is completely beyond me. It's not cute, it's not fun, it's not funny, and it's intensely infuriating. None of the characters have a drop of personality, and if the entire payoff is the transformation scene where the girl's tits balloon 5x their original size—well, it's not worth it. Even the monologues at the end of each episode that preach about Christmas spirit, love, and friendship are incredibly forced, and they do nothing to save the vapid wasteland that is each episode.

To add extra insult to injury, the animation is awful. Half the time, it's passable, but the rest of the time, the animation looks like a low-budget flash video drawn by a 2ch user. There isn't a single redeeming quality about this show, and even all the cute girls are as generic as they come. The voice acting in both languages is weak and spiritless, and no matter who utters it, the trademark “ho, ho, ho!” makes “the Santa Claus” sound like a streetwalker.

Akamatsu fans, surely this holiday season you have better shows you could be watching. If it's hapless boys being assaulted by women that you want, you can watch any given episode of Love Hina. If it's clingy girls you want, you have your pick of the litter. If it's a good, solid, touching Christmas show you want, please go watch/re-watch the incredibly charming Love Hina Christmas Special. You have absolutely no reason to waste your time and money with this garbage.[TOP]

After spending an hour of my life sulking at my desk, I decided to clear my mind with some chicks who weren't desperate for a man's approval. I chose Burst Angel: Infinity, an OVA prequel to the Burst Angel TV series. Taking place before the start of the series, the OVA is a standalone episode that sends the girls chasing after a serial killer. It's a fun time, but it doesn't really add anything to the series or the characters' lives. And, since it only focuses on Jo and Meg, it's not really exciting as the original series, whose extra characters and tech toys makes the show a bit flashier and a bit more exciting. On a side note, I'm also fairly sure that a Japanese OVA is the only place a character could get away with calling a black guy, “the big hefty one with the gorilla mouth.”

At only 25 minutes, the episode is a bit of a let-down, but the disc does come with plenty of great extras. One of these is a short called “The Lightness and Darkness of Jo,” a special that was played at Anime Expo 2005. This shows how Jo first came to the group, and how she first started interacting with Meg, and quite frankly, this is much better than the feature OVA itself. It's also laden with fanservice. Although the actual history of Jo is told through a flashback, the setup features the girls at a water park, so there are breasts galore, a bounty of bulging flesh, and plenty of exposed butt-crack. The DVD also includes a “battle record” of all 24 episodes, which gives a quick and dirty run-down of all the fight scenes. Considering all the action in the show, this is kind of a fun special, although it isn't a terribly important addition.

Overall, the disc is a nice addition to anyone's Burst Angel collection. It isn't imperative to own, but it's well done, and the extra Jo special itself is worth the price of the disc. The OVA doesn't quite live up to the excitement of the series, but if you already own the show, you really have no reason not to really complete your collection.[TOP]

Wanting to keep that adrenaline running, I popped in Bandai Visual's release of Super Robot Wars OG: Divine Wars volume one.

First, let's get the obvious out of the way. It's already become tired and hackneyed to complain about the price of Bandai Visual releases, but since this is a standard definition release, it's worth noting that it's only the first two episodes at a staggering $39.99 MSRP. This is kind of unfortunate, because it's actually a really fun show, but with a price point like that, it's not exactly going to jump off shelves.

Super Robot Wars was originally a series of strategy-based role playing video games. It mixed various mecha from different anime titles, like Getter Robo, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gundam. It's largely a giant in-joke, since it relies heavily on series references, but with the OG: Devine Wars anime series, no prior knowledge of any robot show is necessary. OG refers to Original Generation (which was released in the US for the GBA), which uses original robots.

The series leaps off to a fantastic start just by having some terrific animation. The fight scenes look sharp, and the CG blends seamlessly into every frame. Some of the character designs could possibly be described as either “ugly” or “really ugly,” but it's a fair trade-off for some seriously slick looking mech. The opening theme is fantastic, too, and has that old school Fight, Fight! spirit that made all the classic mecha shows so fun.

To let the story start as fast as possible, the main character is conveniently a robot enthusiast, whose biggest joy in life is playing a mecha simulator video game called Burning PT. After his disappointing loss at the national tournament, the arena is suddenly attacked by giant robotic insects. Because the government has been tracking his statistics and his possibly piloting abilities (of course), they don't blink an eye when he chances upon a top-secret military robot and climbs into the cockpit. Being the aspiring pilot he is, he takes out a few bad guys, and is immediately drafted into the military, where he's recruited to be a pilot. Within the next episode, viewers learn that some evil shadowy organization has captured some of the other video game superstars for their own uses.

While the story is fairly standard mecha fare, it's really well done. The production values are high, and it's truly a very fun show to watch. Divine Wars doesn't appear to have the same political slant or intricate backstory that some of the older Gundam series have had, but it's only been two episodes. Already, it's off to a great start. Yes, there's the possibility that it'll end up being nothing more than some washed-up good guy vs. bad guy robot, but right now, it's a hell of a good time.

For anyone who wants a brainlessly entertaining story about a scrappy young pilot who saves the world, this is a good one to rent for the weekend. I don't know that I'd ever pay two Jeffersons for only two episodes of this thing, but it's definitely worth a rental. It's got action, it's got oomph, and it requires minimal synapse firing to understand. In short, it's a great way to take your mind off some of the more serious things in life.[TOP]

Want more straight-up badass? Consider Manga/Bandai's release of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIGIndividual Eleven. Following up on the heels of the Laughing Man compilation released a month or so back, this disc strings together all episodes that make up the “Individual Eleven” story arc.

Considering it's just a bunch of individual episodes shoved together, it's surprisingly cohesive. Following the activities of the terrorist organization known as Individual Eleven, the OVA does a decent job of burning through some exciting stories in under three hours. Without the ability to really focus on the characters' insights and their internal monologues, viewers don't get the same sense of understanding, and they might miss some of the series' themes of technology vs. man, but it's a good way to introduce newcomers to the series. Like a gateway to the full series, it highlights some of the better action scenes and the more enlightening conversations, but chances are, if you show someone this compilation, they'll be begging you for the full series.

Individual Eleven comes as a two-disc release. The first disc includes the OVA, while the second one includes a horde of extras, including commentary from the Japanese voice actress of Kusanagi and the director. It also includes the Tachikomatic Days that were included in the original TV release.

Although I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who already owns the entire 2nd Gig, it's a good introduction for people who are either too lazy to watch the series, or who want to decide if they're willing to invest their time into the series. It gives just the right amount of teaser without compromising the series too much. This could even be a great way to introduce your friends to anime, so consider renting it.[TOP]

That's it for this week. See you next time!

We have a really special treat this week! This week's Shelf Obsessed entry is from Chris Beveridge, owner and publisher of AnimeOnDVD.com.

Those who have been around for awhile probably remember seeing pictures of Chris's huge built-in library shelves. After moving, though, he changed his method of storing anime. With his ever-growing anime library, he uses thinpak cases to their full advantage, and also makes use of the catalog program, DVD Profiler. With over 5000 discs, he now keeps them in sturdy boxes, packed to the brim with titles.

According to Chris, the left shelf unit has 20 boxes of anime DVDs, while the one on the right has 10 boxes of live action films. The ones on the floor are for incoming new titles. His Blu-Ray collection is located next to the TV in the media room. To further incite jealousy in readers, he also included a picture of his manga collection.


If anyone has pictures of their own collection to share, send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!

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