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Shelf Life
Secret of Blue Earth

by Bamboo Dong,

Hello dear readers. I've got a nasty cold, and my cursed homeopathic Zicam gel swabs didn't do a darned thing in reducing the duration of this beast. I've been popping Dayquil up to my daily limits, avoiding the operation of heavy machinery, and realizing that it's the best excuse to sulk indoors all day, watching anime. It's just a shame that my apartment's swelteringly hot, because nothing cools a head cold like boiling in a crappy apartment. Thanks, immune system.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

The Boxcar Children meet the X-Files in ADV's new space invaders series, Project Blue Earth SOS. Only now, the Boxcar Children all have degrees from private universities, have more intellectual know-how than international intelligence agencies, and have a myriad of resources at their disposal. Their big task—saving the world against invisible invaders.

At some point in the future, the entire world is united under the United Nations, and everyone's embracing the fruits of technology, especially the new-fangled G-Reaction engine, an unexplained marvel that they install on super fast planes and super fast interspace trains. Unfortunately, there's a secret enemy that's targeting these vehicles, shooting them with rainbow-colored rings of light, and making them disappear! But, luckily, there's a top-secret Earth organization called the Labyrinth Alliance that's been doing its best to defend the planet against these perilous villains. And, in true cheesy Saturday morning cartoon fashion, all the episodes end with voice-overs that ask probing questions like, “Who was that mysterious pilot who saved the day? And where did he come from?” (Paraphrased, of course, because I didn't want to spend more time on the disc than necessary.)

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the show so lame. The story itself isn't terrible, but it is horribly written, and poorly paced. The techno-babble is almost meaningless, since it's never explained, and this ends up being pretty bad considering it's a crucial part of the series. The characters are also a bit Too Much. When the fate of the world rests upon two bratty teenage boys, a dog, a little girl, and an old dude, it makes me re-think my faith in the government.

Also, this show has some seriously Scooby Doo sound effects. You know when the bad guys in that show used fake laser guns that had that waaaaooooo-waaaaaoooo-waaaaoooo sound? That's what the Invisible Invader lasers sound like, too. Not to mention all the other goofy sound effects they used to make this show seem like the most old school thing in the world. There was also one side character that definitely deserves the Worst Dub Voice of the Month award—he appears when two of the characters are captured into the enemy spaceship. Presumably some kind of dock worker, his voice alternates between stereotypic Italian, Mexican, and Japanese accents, which is at least poorly directed, if not a little offensive.

There are many who probably find this show charming in a goofy, C-movie kind of way, and who will probably think my review is way too harsh. Well, to them, I tip my hat, because you're still able to find joy in the small things in life. Personally, if I wanted a silly afternoon romp with cartoony characters, I'd probably just stick with some good ol' Hanna-Barbera oldies.[TOP]

Next up was a series with a little more visual panache, but not that much more clarity in what was going on—the OVA adaption of Kaori Yuki's Angel Sanctuary, re-released earlier this year. The 90-minute show tries to condense the first arc of the manga, and, well, I don't think it entirely succeeds. For starters, if you haven't read the manga, then you probably won't know what's going on. The series is one of those good-angels-gone-bad types, but suddenly hearing a huge slush of mythology doesn't really make for clear exposition. This is especially true for the character introductions. It wasn't really until the end of the muddled first episode that I got a clear picture of what was going on.

Let's see if I can recap this for you. One of the angels, Alexiel, rebelled against God and ended up siding with demons. Unsurprisingly, God won and separated her body and soul, the latter of which would continually be reborn in humans. Her latest incarnate is a high school kid named Setsuna, whose life sucks in that he's madly in love with his kid sister. It's made worse when he discovers that he's supposed to be a powerful angel who has the power to take out Tokyo. Eventually fights explode, wings emerge, and the supernatural gets wild.

The topic of incest does play a decent part in these three episodes, but it's not really done in a way to evoke as much sympathy from the audience as shows like Koi Kaze. So, for the more sensitive viewers, this may be something to keep in mind when you decide whether or not to watch this.

More than that, though, the show is just flat out messy. It tries to cram way too much into much too little time, and in the process, it takes out too much information, exposition, and character development. What's left is but a husk of a storyline that's better suited as a side purchase for fans of the manga than as a standalone product. In fact, if you haven't read the manga, I highly recommend not bothering with this, because it will probably not make any sense. It's neat for what it is, and it tries really hard, but ultimately, it doesn't live up to what it could be.[TOP]

I want to take a quick break to complain about how hot it is in Southern California right now. I'm roasting inside my non-air conditioned apartment, and my mother is telling me that there's still snow on the ground back home. I wish my laptop emitted cold puffs of freezing air instead of the impossibly hot jets of fire that are spouting out right now.

And now, onwards to the next review.

Some have said that the animated version of The Wallflower pales in comparison to the original manga, but having never read the manga, I can still say that this series is awesome and I love it to death. If it gets old later on, so be it, but right now, it's still fresh to me and I'm having a great time with it.

The second volume of The Wallflower abandons the boys' hopes of trying to turn Sunako into a delicate, ladylike creature, and instead just shows more of their interactions as friends. They rely on her heavily to do the housework and the cooking, while she just dreams of being left alone to watch horror movies and cuddle with her medical models. She gets along with the boys, but shies away from their shining beauty like most people recoil from her morbid darkness; there's an entertaining scene where she and one of the boys go shopping, but are constantly stopped by shopkeepers who are in awe that such a ghostly girl could land such a stud. It's nice to see that Sunako is completely okay with her outward appearance, despite everyone's comments. That kind of self-confidence makes me all warm and gooey inside, and it's a nice change from shows where the lead girls fret about themselves all day.

Even more simply, The Wallflower is just a fun show. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and the visual gag of seeing insanely pretty men paired up with a super-deformed lump works. The characters joke around all the time, and they seem to have a good time, which makes them more fun to watch. The only people I wish would disappear are those cursed Goth-goth-loli-loli girls, who are not funny, and are super irritating. What is funny, though, are the manhood and womanhood tips that sporadically appear throughout the episodes. These blurbs impart valuable advice, like what kind of Ping Pong paddles suit women best, and also the importance of not squirting cleaning detergent into your eye. Also, did you know that the proper way to eat French soups is to spoon the liquid towards you? Other cuisines may require you to spoon the other way—something that could totally come up at your next high-class dinner.

It's best just to not take this show too seriously. Just enjoy it for what it is, and have fun with it. Maybe it's not as good as the manga, but I think it stands just fine on its own, and I can't wait to keep watching it. Plus, there are seriously a lot of bishonen in this show, and that's never a terrible thing.[TOP]

It could just be that my tastes in anime are changing a bit, and I happen to find shows like The Wallflower to be hilarious. A lot of my preferences have changed over the years. I used to hate coffee, now I can't live without it. I used to hate avocados, and now I could eat them all day. I used to like Slayers, and now it makes me cry to destroy my nostalgia by watching it again.

Funimation has blessed Slayers fans with Slayers Try, packaged in a plastic fold-out 4-disc set. It's not that the show's not good—it's just that I remembered it being so much better. It used to crack me up every five minutes. Now… I just kind of want the characters to shut up for a little bit.

Once again, Lina and her team of adventurers are out to save the day from a terrifying villain. They kick a lot of ass along the way, make jokes about breast size, squabble about money, and learn that the only way to truly defeat evil is to make personal sacrifices, feed off each other's strengths, and persevere through thick and thin. If it sounds like I've used this synopsis before, it's probably because countless of shows post-Slayers have used the exact same concept, and I'm sure this show wasn't exactly a pioneer, either.

What tends to make or break this show for people, though, are the characters. Lina is spunkier than a patch of nettles, and her rag-tag friends are filled to the brim with go-get-'em attitude. The bad guys they fight often look like they were pulled from a kids' cartoon, and overall, everything is just bright and loud. If you like that kind of energy, then you will dig these characters, and this show. I'm firmly convinced that at some point in every anime fan's life, they fall in love with Slayers. I'm kind of over it, but there's always room for more fans.[TOP]

That's my bit. I'm going to bed.

This week's Shelf Obsessee is Erica, who's aiming to reach 500 manga, but so far she's got over 200 manga, 12 different publishers, and 44 separate series. This email was sent a couple months ago, so her numbers have probably blossomed since then into a beautiful manga flower.

Ooh, she also has a copy of my favorite book. Excellent.

Want to share your shelves? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com! Thanks for reading!

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