Shelf Life
Panic Attack

by Bamboo Dong,

I've been listening to a few podcasts lately. In the past, I never really had time for them, but I've found that it's a great way to kill some time at work when I'm slaving away at the lab bench. Aside from classic staples like This American Life, I've also been turned onto WNYC's Radio Lab and BBC's In Our Time. These are my favorite podcasts so far, but I'm always looking for new suggestions, so if you have any good ones you want to pimp out, drop a line in the Talkback thread for this column.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

First up on my list was Viz's newest young-boy-overcomes-odds-to-defeat-evil show, Buso Renkin. It was a show that reminded me how tired I am of hearing the words “alchemy” and “Homunculus” in the same sentence, and unless someone decides to make a movie called What Dreams May Come: The Carl Jung Story, I'm totally over it. Luckily, that sentiment is probably just felt by me alone, and other people might still have a chance to enjoy this series.

Like many action-packed shows, the story starts right in the middle of a fight, then takes its time explaining things. This lets you learn things at the same time as the protagonist, though how he swallowed the explanation is beyond me. His first recollection of his new life begins when he dreams of saving a girl from a terrifying monster, only to get killed shortly afterwards. The next day, he learns that not only is he actually dead, but that he's being kept alive by the Kakugane, which is kind of like Iron Man's heart, but has 110% more alchemy. The monster was a Homunculus, and the girl was an “Alchemic Warrior.” Unshockingly, the main character becomes n Alchemic Warrior too, and is able to use a magical lance to destroy monsters that are ravaging the town.

It's a little hard to take the homunculi seriously, to be honest. They're not particularly scary looking, and they only ever appear for maybe five minutes at a time. Plus, they're being controlled by a villain who wears a butterfly mask. How can you take any villain seriously when he's wearing a butterfly mask? Goofiness of the bad guys aside, the story plays out like any monster of the week show. Eventually, things get a little more sticky and the viewer learns more about what types of homunculi exist and what they can accomplish, but for now, it's good guys versus bad guys.

One annoying thing about Viz's release is the lack of on-screen text. There was a moment when the main character received a text message on his cell phone. His response, incidentally, was, “What is this supposed to mean?” Gee, I don't know. Maybe if you translated your on-screen text, then we'd all know.

Aside from that inconvenience, the rest of the release is handled well. The dub is a little overdramatic at times ("Why is my buso renkin so weak?!?!!"), but viewers can always choose the original Japanese if that suits them better. Still, Buso Renkin isn't really my cup of tea. It's not a bad show, but it's such a generic Shonen Jump show that it's almost boring. I didn't really care about any of the characters, and none of the comic relief was funny. I didn't really care if the bad guys were defeated or not, and frankly, it was a chore to get through the first season. This show will probably appeal to some fans who love indulging themselves in the latest Shonen Jump wunderkind adventure stories, but this isn't one of the better ones out there. If I wanted to watch people beat each other up with spirit swords or whatever, I'd rather watch Bleach or s.CRY.ed.[TOP]

Next up was the third and last volume of Black Blood Brothers, which continues to hurtle towards its finale just as fast as it originally started out. It's almost difficult to succinctly describe what happened. If you recall, the Kowloon Children are ravaging the world and infecting everyone they can get their fangs on. Trying to stop them are a few heroes, one of them being Jiro, our red-clad protagonist. Along the way, he runs into a lot of old adversaries and friends, but in the end, it's fight after fight until the bloody finish.

There are a lot of fights in this show. They aren't necessarily bloody, or even action-packed, but there are a lot of fights, almost to the point of "too many." It gets to be a pain after awhile, because there are simply too many characters with too many motivations. It's not hard to figure out what's going on, but it comes off as a bit too cluttered. Things would be much more clear if the story was slowed down, and maybe stretched out by another 12 episodes. Then things wouldn't have had to be crammed into three discs, and there'd actually be time for things like character development. As it is, there's barely enough time to throw out crazy nicknames for all the characters, like Black Snake and Blue Wolf.

In the end, Black Blood Brothers is a fairly amusing show. It happened a little too fast, and perhaps not furiously enough, but it was quaint. For fans of vampire shows, this'll be a fun little side journey into a different mythology, but it might not be the best bang for your buck.[TOP]

As far as money saving goes, Funimation's released another boxset—this time, it's Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid. Continuing the storyline for the first series, this 13-episode follow-up takes place three months later. Another enemy has appeared on the radar, one that has the technology to defeat the Electronic Cloaking System with powerful missiles. This new enemy, Amalgam, has plenty of Black Technology at its disposable, and it's up to the good guys at Mithril to try and stop them.

If that synopsis made zero sense to you, then you should probably start over with the original Full Metal Panic series. Since it came before this season, it's absolutely essential that you start there first, or else the series won't make nearly as much sense. And, since all the main characters are carried over from the original, much of their development was played out in the first show.

That having been said, the obvious is also true. If you liked the first series, then you will undoubtedly like the second. It has a similar tone, though occasionally maybe even a bit darker, and it furthers many of the relationships between the characters. It's a far cry from the Fumoffu side series that was released, and actually focuses on a genuine storyline rather than one-shots. There is also a lot more revealed about the characters' backstories, so fans will definitely have more to chew on. Of course, if you're just here for the action, you won't be disappointed. Although the fighting often takes a backseat to character development and plot advancement, The Second Raid has plenty of battles to please those who live for such things.

All in all, this is a fun show for fans of the original series. The DVDs come in a plastic fold-out case within a thin plastic slipcover, so it's not going to immediately fall apart either. Combine that with an MSRP of $59.98 (even though I know all of you can find better deals out there!), and you've got a decent purchase on your hands. To be honest, I was never a giant fan of the series, and could never get past all the comic relief, but I had a lot of friends who couldn't get enough of this show. Even if you're in my boat, and just casually liked the series, it could always make a decent birthday present for that FMP fan in your life.[TOP]

That's it for now. Enjoy some shelves!

This week's first shelf came in an email amusingly titled, "My girlfriend makes fun of my yaoi collection :(" Thanks for the collection, Joe!

The second Shelf Obsessee for this week is Andy, who has some really nice figures.

I want all of these. From both people. All of them.

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

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