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Shelf Life
Funky Town

by Bamboo Dong,

Shelf Worthy
Kanon DVD 3
Rental Shelf
Hell Girl DVD 5
Naruto DVD Boxset 7
Funky Forest DVD
It's that time of the year again…the time of year when everyone is forced to listen to me talk endlessly about hockey—the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most exciting times in the entire season, because suddenly every game matter so much more, and every goal to be the key to keeping the season alive. My beloved Avalanche have made it past the Minnesota Wild, and are now duking it out against the Red Wings. I'm pretty sure my blood pressure goes up a bit every game.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

I always get a mild sense of futility when I watch a new volume of Hell Girl. Every time I get a whiff of Ai's background or series backstory, I get really excited. I lean in really close to the screen, hoping to draw the answers closer to me—and then it lets me down. The series inevitably falls back on an old routine, leaving me heartbroken and betrayed. However, I do like that no matter how isolated and technology-bare a house is, they always have laptops and wireless. You'd think that if your only furniture consisted of a bed and a desk, the next logical purchase wouldn't be a Macbook, but hey, what do I know.

Anyway, the series is getting better… but it's already the fifth volume. This kind of teasing is upsetting, and frankly, I shouldn't have to wait until almost the last volume to get something of substance. Opening up the disc is a girl whose crazy step-mother has an unnatural obsession with dolls. As a result, the girl is treated as nothing more than a doll, and with all that resentment, it's no surprise that she reaches for the red thread as well. Hajime tries to stop her, of course, but old habits die hard, and away goes someone life.

At some point, the journalist almost ceases to have a purpose. There's an interesting give-and-take between him and his daughter about revenge and its implications, but that isn't until later, and it doesn't last nearly long enough. The disc even teases viewers with some flashbacks of what appears to be Ai's past, but these are fleeting and unsatisfying.

One episode that kind of rocks is Hell Boy vs. Hell Girl. In it, Ai is pitted against a boy with psychic abilities, who says he's been to Hell and back. The fight between them gives some insight into Ai and her posse's powers, but ultimately, this brief spurt of activity dies soon after the episode's end and once again a thread is pulled.

It seems that a lot of questions are brought up, but rather than answering any of them, the series just dabs at them, poking at viewers to make sure we're still here. I'm all for suspense and drawing out the conclusions as long as possible, but this is getting ridiculous. Nothing of value has happened, and with only one more volume to go, I want answers. I have the smallest of requests, and it's to know who the characters really are. I think I have a better chance of winning a free iPod online.[TOP]

So last week, I reviewed the second volume of Kanon. I was so taken by the sudden twist in events that I promised myself I'd check out the third volume this week. Boy, these Key games really know how to spin them, don't they? The brand of fantasy that they weave into these stories are simultaneously ridiculous and fascinating, and I can't help but be taken in by them.

The mystery of Makoto is finally solved, and the explanations of her origins and amnesia finally come to a fizzled conclusion. While it's cute and a little heartbreaking to see her degenerate into the mind-state of a little kid, it's also a little bizarre to see Yuichi hand-feeding her and trying to get her to play with bells. It's almost disturbing in a way, and if coddling a helpless girl doesn't scream “Moe!,” then nothing on this planet ever well. Still, there're two ways of looking at it—you can either be creeped out by it, or believe in the “magic” of it all and embrace the cuteness. I ended up going with the latter, but I do acknowledge the former, and I'm sure this may be one of the issues that ends up polarizing fan opinion about Kanon.

Soon after Makoto's arc is over, the series moves onto the other girls—dabbling a bit with Uguu-girl, but finally settling on Demon-buster. Each girl's story is just as bizarre as the last, and if anything, I have to give kudos to the series (and game) for coming up with so many different mini-arcs. Of course, each one ends up adoring Yuichi, but it's all so innocent that it's hard to find fault with any of it. None of the girls seem to be jealous of each other, and all accept that he's just the Big Brother that every moe fanboy wants to be.

In the end, I think I like this show. I may not feel moe towards any of the girls, nor do I really want to befriend any of them, but I am interested in seeing how each story will play out. I want to know why Mai is hunting demons, and I want to know who that sick girl is. All of these questions keep me interested, and it certainly helps that the show is visually gorgeous. The soft palettes relax me, and everyone looks like a puppy. I can't wait to see what will happen to the other girls, and I'm prepared to shed a couple tears in the process.[TOP]

Every so often, I like to shake things up by reviewing some of the live-action films that the anime companies put out. Although Viz has been releasing a lot of great anime-based stuff lately, this time, I checked out their release of Funky Forest. A collaborative effort between Katsuhito Ishii, Shunichiro Miki, and ANIKI, this film is like candy for the brain. It's composed of a series of short episodic vignettes that range from the surreal to the... surreal. I saw alien dance-offs, veterinarians with giant papier mache heads, and the world's sorriest singles picnic.

When the first thing you see on the cover is a chubby white kid, dudes in furry mascot suits, and some scruffy guy who could totally be the king of bandits, it's hard not to be a littler interested. The series starts out with a comedy sketch between two guys hitting each other. It pulls out to reveal that it's merely a show being watched by a guy piloting a bacteria-like organism that shoots into the sky. All of this is over within minutes and transitions into a completely different scene where a little girl shoots lasers at a space entity, and sighs about having to do homework-- but even this segment barely lasts a minute. Personally, my favorite characters are the Unpopular With Women Brothers, a trio that includes the aforementioned king of bandits, and the chubby kid.

It's hard to describe the bizarre brilliance of this film. To do so would be like pulling you into every dream I"ve ever had since I was 4, especially the ones that came right after popping a couple Nyquil. It uses animation whenever it feels like it (one segment involves a paddle whose phallus extends into a poop droplet, which is then flung at some guys, who are reprimanded by the world's scariest cop), and makes fair use of some outrageously creative prosthetics and CG monsters.

There's also an immense amount of dancing. The dance breaks are random and frequent, and completely delightful.

Funky Forest carries an NR rating, and parental guidance is justifiably advised. Many of the scenes are mildly sexual in nature, but in a disturbing way. There are phalluses aplenty, milt-leaking tubes, and plenty of other things that wouldn't be entirely appropriate to mention in this column.

Perhaps the best thing about this film is how nonchalant the characters are about everything that happens. The amount of creativity and imagination that went into this product is amazing, and while it is a bit disturbing at times, it's worth watching. Probing someone's psyche has never been this fascinating. It probably won't be for everyone, but if you've got a taste for quirky movies, this one takes the cake.[TOP]

For something a little more conventional, Viz is also offering the 7th uncut Naruto boxset. These sets are a great purchase for fans of the series, as they contain the episodes in both Japanese and English. This particular box comes with three discs, which cover episodes 79 through 92. It also comes with a printed booklet containing the storyboards for episode 82, which is a nice addition.

These episodes cover the arc right after all the Hidden Leaf ninjas thwart eminent destruction upon their city, but things are still in shambles. Add Sasuke's a-hole brother, who comes along wanting to start trouble, and you've got some good ol' shonen conflict on your hands. Meanwhile, the village realizes that they need to replace their fallen Hokage, so the ever-perverted Jiraiya heads off in search of Tsunade, a famed healer whose skills as a ninja make her a ripe replacement.

And then... there's Orochimaru! He still can't be killed! Ahh!!

Chaos and mayhem take place, but not until after Naruto learns a new jutsu that can be used in countless episodes after this season.

For me, Naruto has always been one of those shows that I'll watch on TV simply because it's on, but I don't know that I've ever felt a burning desire to pull out a DVD and rewatch an episode. However, these episodes are still amongst what I think are the “good” episodes, so if you're going to buy any Naruto boxset, this should be one of them. The villains are still exciting and frighteningly evil, and these episodes are still in the stage where plenty of character development is still happening. Sasuke's brother is really interesting, if only just for what his appearance reveals about Sasuke's past.

It certainly isn't cheap to collect Naruto, but it is a series worth watching for those who like Shonen Jump series. This is one of the few long series that I don't get easily bored with, and up until these episodes, things are still good, so keep watching for now.[TOP]

That's it for this week; thanks for reading!

This week's collection is from Lynn.

Whew! What a collection! That would spice up any room.

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

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