Shelf Life
Spirits Dream Inside

by Bamboo Dong,

In preparation for the upcoming release of the new X-Files movie, I've been re-watching the entire series. Knowing that they only had eight days to prepare each episode totally blows my mind, and it only affirms my belief that the X-Files was one of the best shows ever made. Granted, the first season special effects were terrifyingly bad, but you cannot deny the sheer awesomeness of Mulder and Scully. I actually blame that show for my mild fear of the dark. And squeaky carts. If anyone remembers that episode from the eighth season with the squeaky platform and the old legless Indian guy, you'll totally know what I'm talking about. July can't come fast enough. This movie will be the best.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

For the past hour, I've been playing the themes from 5 Centimeters per Second on the piano endlessly. Each time I run through a piece, I gain a deeper love for the film, and every time I finish, I want to call all my friends and tell them to watch it. What an absolutely beautiful, touching piece of art. 5cm per Second is one of Shinkai's finest works to date, and there isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend it to. Shinkai's intimate knowledge of the longings of love is surpassed by few, and really, the subtleties in this story reach brilliance.

5cm per Second is told in three parts—it starts with a boy and girl who meet in elementary school. Circumstances force the two apart, but they continue to write to each other until they finally meet again and kiss for the last time. While the two eventually move on and go about their lives, they can never quite forget one another; the boy, especially, is perpetually gazing into the distance and writing emails that are never sent. The timeline shifts to their post-college lives, but even then, they can't shake what they once had.

Like all of Shinkai's other works, 5cm per Second never comes out and tells you what the characters are feeling. It never follows a strict storyline, but between the interactions on the screen and well-timed shots of lonely landscapes, everything is as clear as night and day. The production values are amazing, too. The artwork is detailed and carefully colored, and everything from subway platforms to the frost outside of train windows are painstakingly replicated. And the music..! Composed by Tenmon, who has lent his talent to all of Shinkai's previous films, the piano score is heartbreakingly gorgeous, and it just contributes to the dreamlike quality that the film has.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the film almost 4 hours later, and I can only hope that everyone has a chance to watch this. No one tells love stories like Shinkai does, and his talent for storytelling is immense. This movie is worth buying for yourself, and everyone you know. It's that good. Watch it.[TOP]

Also available from ADV is the bloody 12-episode series, Devil May Cry. Unlike many other video-game based series, this one doesn't suck. It's not a masterpiece, but it definitely doesn't suck, which is pretty impressive by itself. For those familiar with the video games, you'll recognize some characters, namely Dante, Trish, and Lady. They don't do much except to pop up in various episodes and help kill some devils, but then again, that's basically all that the first volume is.

The main character is a strawberry sundae-loving, pizza-obsessed mercenary named Dante, who is half man, half devil. He makes a living by hiring out his demon-busting abilities, though he's constantly in debt. His assignments range from serving as a bodyguard for a young girl being hunted by devils, to taking out devils shaped like motorcycles. It's very much a monster-of-the-week show, though it's hinted in the first episode that there are some powerful devils who are trying to take over the world. Of course.

While the storyline isn't incredibly strong (or even existent, really), there is plenty of fun to be had by those who love some good ol' violence. Even within the first two minutes, swords are drawn, guns are pulled out, and there is some serious butt-kicking up in here. In fact, if you were to make a pie chart, the distribution of events would look something like this:

As you can see, there is a lot of action. Not just a couple of sissy slaps here and there, either—when the characters aren't blasting someone in the face, they're invariably stabbing them through the chest, which is bad for devils, but definitely good for violence-lovers.

With a series like this, though, there isn't too much re-watch value. All the fights are cool, but they kind of look the same, and you'd probably get a lot more enjoyment out of playing the game endlessly. Still, this would be a good title to rent if you were planning on throwing some kind of nerdy, testosterone beer party. Everyone would get a kick out of it, and no one would even have to pay attention. Then everybody will like you.[TOP]

They'll like you much less if you rent Shuffle, because that show is terrible. I love rom-coms as much as the next girl, but seeing a little girl in a bra-panties-‘n’-garter set is a little on the icky side for me. I understand the appeal of shonen romance shows for men, but there are good ones, and then ones where the story is just plain stupid.

Luckily, all the exposition is out of the way, so right now, it's just an episodic cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, which makes the ridiculousness of the story much less obvious. Gone is the whole angle of demons and angels, and gone are the annoying fathers who popped up in every scene. Now it's just a typical 5 girls, 1 guy show, but the episodes are still pretty trite. There are only so many ways I can watch girls fight over who gets to cook for a guy before it gets really old. And, just in case viewers missed it the first time, Kaede busts out another, “Taking care of you is the one and only thing I live for… Cutting corners in doing that… I cannot do that.” Looks like she's pretty easy to please.

The thing I have to say is, despite how irritating and needy all of the girls are, Rin is actually a pretty cool dude. He's patient and kind, and even when he picks up a girl's notebook with her notes on “how to become to wife!,” he's still really chill about it. I don't know that the same scenario would fly in America, but it's nice to see a male protagonist you don't want to punch in the face.

It's just a shame that this doesn't really carry through to any of the female characters. There's one or two level-headed women, but the one who's the most independent and life-loving is labeled as “one of the guys.” The others work overtime to try to catch Rin, and nothing could make them happier than hearing him compliment their cooking. Normally, I'd get up on my soapbox about how this is unprogressive and all that, but more than anything, it's just plain boring. I'm so bored of watching these women cook and clean. I'm so bored of watching them go shopping. They should at least go backpacking or skydiving or play some basketball or something.

Clearly, this show isn't really for me, even though I surprisingly didn't hate the episode titled “Dating with Panties.” The girl went a little overboard (okay, a lot) with her date planning, but hey, she's young, and you can't blame a girl for wanting a nice date. It also gave me hope that maybe the entire show won't just be about cooking after all. Still, I wouldn't recommend this show unless you've got a serious love for chicks with pointy ears who love domestic chores.[TOP]

Last up was the first volume of xxxHolic, the 24-episode series based on the CLAMP manga of the same name. With its stylish, lanky character designs, it's definitely unique visually. Everyone's legs are a mile long, and it imparts a sort of quasi-sexiness, quasi-spookiness to everything. The costumes and hairstyles are stunning, too, and I could totally see it being a cosplayer's paradise.

The series itself is one of CLAMP's more mature, slanting towards a darker, moodier atmosphere. Focusing on the supernatural, the series centers around a lot of myths and legends, observing the spirits that cohabitate the human world. The main character is a slightly goofy guy named Watanuki, who'd be pretty normal if not for the fact that he can see spirits. They're naturally attracted to him and his subconscious wish to have them disappear leads him to accidentally stumble upon the home of Yuko, a witch who can grant wishes—at a price. In exchange for keeping spirits off of him, she requires that he work for her part time as her personal servant. Under her employment, he's able to learn more about the other spirits that plague the other customers who inadvertently wander in seeking help.

A while back, I mused in one of my columns about what it would be like if Mushishi were to take place in the hustle and bustle of a large city. I imagine if they did so, it'd be something like xxxHolic. Each episode centers on a new spirit, and regardless of whether or not it gets chased away, viewers get to see what it does, and how it comes about. There isn't really a driving story arc just yet, but half the fun is in seeing what kind of customer will come in next.

As far as supernatural shows go, xxxHolic is pretty entertaining. It has a solid handful of characters who are exciting to watch, but don't overshadow the spirits-o'-the-week or the themes of predestination that pervade the series. Watanuki, especially, is a crack-up, and his character is made better by the performance of Todd Haberkorn. His nervousness and jumpiness is conveyed through a wide range of vocal inflections, and I totally dig it. Seriously, he's such a mega-dork that he's almost charming, especially surrounded by cool and collected people like Yuko.

I've always preferred CLAMP's more serious stuff to their cutesy, soda-pop bright kiddie shows, and so far, I'm having a good time with xxxHolic. Yuko's kind of bad-ass, and she provides a great complement to the series' supernatural side. Without a doubt, xxxHolic is as intriguing as it is sexy, and that's saying a lot.[TOP]

Awesome, well that's that. Thanks for reading!

Alright, we've got two Shelfers this week. The first one is "Lord Drantin." I'm not quite sure what he's the lord of, but he does have some pretty neat figures.

The second is Mike C. from Worcester, MA (for all you non-Mass folks, it's pronounced "Wusstuh." Don't mess it up, or they'll beat you up.), who has quite the enviable figure collection, and also some nice shirts.

Different sized collections, but both equally rock.

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

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