Shelf Life
Starship Troopers

by Bamboo Dong,

A couple weeks ago, my local Costco started stocking glass bottle Coca-Cola, hecho en Mexico. For those who haven't had it, all the rumors about its deliciousness are totally true. The cane sugar makes it completely superior to all the other Coke we get in the States, and if I could drink nothing but these glass bottle beauties for the rest of my life, I would probably be happy (though my body, not so much). I've always taken the opportunity to get some whenever I could, so now that I know I can buy palettefuls at a time? Yes. The world is now mine.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Despite having spent an immense amount of time watching the millions of Lucky Star fan variations online, I was still pretty stoked to be able to watch it again when I popped in the first disc. It's really the cutest thing ever, even if it's incredibly annoying. But really, that's kind of what the series is like—cute and annoying. Personally, I really enjoyed it.

The series is basically an endless stream of dialogue spoken by chipper high school students who look like little girls. They prattle endlessly about everything their minds wander onto, ranging from serious subjects like the best way to eat a strawberry shortcake, to lighter topics, like pulling all-nighters for exams. If there's a storyline, I completely missed it, but I had plenty of fun just watching them babble. All the girls are a lot of fun, and they get along so well that it's impossible to dislike any of them. Being the nerd that I am, my personal favorite was Konata, an otaku whose life revolves around anime, manga, and video games. She's constantly commenting about moe games or gaming, and if you pay attention, you'll be able to catch plenty of anime references.

Lucky Star may just seem like another cute-girls-with-loud-personalities love fest, but it does a lot to poke fun at a lot of genres. This kind of self-mockery isn't always funny, but it works for this series, thanks in part to Konata. There's also a segment at the end of each episode called Lucky Channel, which features a disgruntled idol and her manager. It's pretty cynical, and does a lot to make fun of the idol industry and how they're treated.

Delightfully, the series doesn't even have an ending theme, and for the episodes on this disc, viewers get treated to shots of the girls singing random anime and TV themes at a karaoke bar. This show is seriously nerdy.

It's honestly not for everyone, though. I enjoyed it a lot for all the silly chatter because it reminded me of hanging out with my friends, but for some people, that's just not fun. In a way, it's a little bit like Media Blaster's Girl's High—it's silly, but also kind of annoying, and it could please just as many people as it would turn off.

Shortly after I watched the disc, I recommended it to my best friend from high school. I told her that it reminded me of our old lunchroom conversations, and she said, paraphrased, “I already saw it and I hated it.” When I responded, “You didn't like our lunchtime conversations??” she just said, “I did, but I don't like watching annoying anime girls chatter like that.”

Fair enough.[TOP]

Next up was the first volume of Baldr Force Exe. I was pretty curious about it, if only for one thing: the screener came wrapped in this ultrashiny plastic envelope with a big sticker on it that said, “Watching Bladr Force Exe may make your brain explode!”

I scoffed.

Within minutes, my skepticism totally got served when someone's head actually exploded WOAH. That was followed by another explosion. Then another one. Everyone's heads were exploding. This was serious business.

The main protagonist of Baldr Force Exe is a scrappy young man named Souma who's totally proud of being a hacker. He was part of a hacking group called Steppen Wolf, but during one of their raids, his buddy was killed by one of the policing forces. Vowing to hunt down the person who killed his buddy, Souma joins the police force so he can find out who the culprit is. All is not so simple, though—a ghost is eating its way through cyberspace, and takes the form of a small girl who claims to be Souma's little sister.

With only four episodes in this OVA series, it manages to tell a decent story. It starts out as a standard revenge story, but it brings in a lot with the introduction of the Creepy Little Girl. The episodes don't do a lot to explain what can be done in cyberspace, why people can only spend a certain number of time in it, and why everyone can summon big robots, but since it's based off a video game, it's something they assumed everyone would already know. Even so, you don't need to know much about the game to have a superficial enjoyment of this show—I'd never even heard of the game, and I had no problems keeping up or maintaining a decent level of interest.

Baldr Force (which I keep accidentally typing as Bladr Force, which would probably be a much different show) is entertaining, but not particularly engaging. It has a bunch of people zipping around in mechs, but not much else, unless you count the whole human-test-subject-conspiracy angle that briefly arises to set the stage for the Creepy Girl. For a show based off an action shooter, though, you can't expect too much else. It aims to be exciting, and it delivers. When people die by having their heads explode, it's pretty hard to not be a little bit thrilling, though you'd think they'd learn to encase people's heads in Saran wrap before they log into the 'net.

In the end, I don't know that I'd ever watch this again, or really have a reason to recommend it to anyone except for fans of the game. It's a fun four episodes, but there are better shows out there I could be watching. If anything, I could just watch the Matrix again.[TOP]

Next up, I decided to plow through volumes three and four of Death Note. This show is insanely entertaining no matter what kind of mood I'm in, and every time the discs end, I'm massively disappointed that I don't have the next one in front of me.

L continues to suspect that Light is actually Kira, and in an effort to try to catch him, he introduced himself. The two begin to work with each other, though always as a means to catch the other off guard. Things get rougher when another Kira pops onto the scene—an idol named Misa who's madly in love with Kira and uses her notebook as a means to meet and impress him. When she's caught by the police, though, Light has to take some drastic measures to clear his name.

The series has long since moved away from the moral ambiguity of killing criminals, and is now a full-on race to the finish line between Light and L. While this keeps the story just as exciting as it ever was, it does make it harder to sympathize with Light. Frankly, he's a total dick, and the way he uses people kind of makes it hard to be on his side. With the introduction of Misa, it's mildly nice to see him tell her to not kill innocent people, but considering that he's doing it for his own benefit and making sure that he won't get in trouble, it doesn't do much for his good name. Still, even though Light is far from a positive role model, he still makes for interesting television, and ultimately, that's what counts.

Death Note is one of those shows that are so well written that it's hard not to be completely involved in it. Maybe it's because I don't have the same deductive reasoning skills that Light does, but I'm always guessing as to what will happen next. The twists and turns never fail to draw me in, and I'm totally hooked. I also wouldn't mind punching Misa in the face, but hey, that's the downside of not being able to jump into your screen.[TOP]

After watching so much death, I thought the best way to lift my spirits would be to check out the third volume of Shuffle. Previously, I had been pretty unhappy with the first two volumes, but things are definitely picking up. I even enjoyed this disc quite a bit, and I'm actually looking forward to future volumes.

Shuffle has a really hokey premise. It's like your standard harem show, only it has angels and devils, too, so that the lead guy can have his choice of long-eared women. The earlier volumes disturbed me with the girls' obsessions with cooking and cleaning for the lead character, but this disc has finally moved away from that and is now focusing more on the actual relationships. There was a moment, though, where one of the girls said, “I'll have lots of babies for you, okay?” so it's not without its unintentional chuckles.

While all the girls are still madly in love with Rin, it looks like one of them might finally be coming out on top, so it's nice to see that things aren't going to be wishy-washy the entire time. The girls are finally showing some negative emotions too, which is nice. Seeing their happiness was fine, but when there are a handful of girls fighting for the same guy and no one's ever really upset for more than five minutes… well, that's just unnatural. There was also a really nice sequence with the kids' homeroom teacher that showed how it was possible to be a strong, successful woman even without a man, which made a good addition to the series.

It's not all romance and hijinks, though. Shuffle still has a fair amount of fanservice, and by fair amount, I mean a lot. There is no shortage of bouncing breasts, and there are panties everywhere you turn. Considering none of these girls are older than 18, it's a little sketchy, but hey, to each his own.

Overall, Shuffle has gotten much better since the first volume. I was really turned off by how utterly unprogressive the series was, but this volume was actually pretty charming, and I'm looking forward to the rest of it. The plot twist near the end about Primula's origins seems like a bit of a contrivance, but maybe the next volume will explain it better. For now, I'm satisfied.[TOP]

Alright, that's it for this week's Shelf Life. Enjoy your week!

This week's collection is from Sarah, who says that most of her money goes towards anime figures, plushes, and manga. The gaps in her collection? Only there because her mom was reading them at the time. Amazing. And yes, the container behind Kero's head is none other than Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream ice cream. USA! USA!

I love it. Plus, how could I resist an email subject titled: "My shelves, my shelves, my lovely lady shelves?"

Want to show off your collection? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com! Thanks, and see you next week!

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