Shelf Life
Strawberry Fields

by Bamboo Dong,

Apparently I am neither creative, nor unique. I'd been previously informed that the Boston Globe had a column called Shelf Life, but I guess there are others, too. There's some blog with the same name, and apparently another column over at 1up. This is in addition to another handful of blogs and columns called Shelf Life that I was unaware of. Man, I'm such a poser.

My sinfully busy school schedule has made this week a little short, but more goodies await for next week! Welcome to Shelf Life.

When I first heard the name Strawberry Panic!, I immediately fantasized about the ultimate bakery, in which hordes of cute girls would get into whipped cream fights and then squeal in distress when a glob hit their nose. Sadly, that's not what the show ended up being, but it certainly did have a horde of girls, and they were all pretty cute.

Released under Media Blaster's Yuri Fan catalogue, the series does have a touch of yuri elements, but they're more playful than sexual. The series centers around a transfer student who's just entered a prestige school. The campus is gorgeous and the girls are friendly, but the rules are really strict, and there are a lot of traditions that she's yet to figure out. For instance, there's a girl known as Etoile, who not only oversees the student councils of the school's separate campuses, but is also the symbolic leader of the student body. She's beautiful and kind and everyone adores her—and she's taken an immediate liking to the new student. The two even almost kiss several times.

Unsurprisingly, there's something slightly sinister (or perhaps just mysterious?) going on, and there are some things about Etoile that haven't been revealed yet. Every time she almost kisses the new girl (which happens a lot, almost to the point of irritance), someone comments about how she's got ulterior motives, or something to that effect.

Etoile aside, though, the series is pretty cute. The characters are all a lot of fun, and it's fun watching all the girls do their club activities and throw tea parties. Strawberry Panic! mainly follows a set storyline that involves Etoile and the new girl, but it has a plenty of standalone episodes that allow the characters to have tons of fun. There's also a couple episodes that focus on some of the other girls, too, so viewers can really get a full sense of everyone's histories.

Visually, the show is pretty easy on the eyes. The character designs are pleasing, and all the flowing hair does well to accentuate the femininity of the show. Overall, the series is just very sweet and easy to watch. There isn't a whole lot of drama right now, and the series is staying mum about all the school's secrets, but the girls' charm is enough to keep viewers interested in the time being. It's a very laid-back show, and if you're looking for something relaxing to watch over the weekend, Strawberry Panic! might just hit the spot.[TOP]

Much to my delight, I was able to check out the fifth volume of Death Note this week. In the last volume, if anyone recalls, Light and Misa (and Light's dad) were bumming away in jail in an attempt to prove their innocence to L. As per Light's orders, though, the Shinigami took away the Death Notes, taking with them the memories of both Kira's actions.

This does a few things to change the show. For starters, it's no longer really Light's wits against L's. Although Light was the one who decided to give up his memory of the Death Note (for now, perhaps), right now, he's little more than just a boy who has some crack deductive skills. Since he no longer knows about Kira's actions or the Death Note, it's no longer really a matter of outsmarting L. While it's still interesting to see what the two will do next, it's just less exciting. There's still a Kira out there, but now that “he's” no longer the focal point of the show, it makes it slightly harder to care.

Now, don't get me wrong—the series is still good, and it's still interesting, but it's slightly distressing not knowing how long this will continue, and if/when Light will get his Death Note back. Watching Light escape punishment isn't fun if he isn't even aware of his past actions. Yes, he brought this upon himself, but now the viewers have to pay for it. Frankly, the mini-arc that's happening right now, in which “Kira” is offing some company's corporate rivals, isn't that interesting. L has brought in two new characters, a con artist and a thief, but they function more as background noise than as legitimate, three-dimensional characters, so they don't add much to the series.

Still, the show has other things to offer. While Light's character may have taken a minor blow, L is still just as fascinating as ever. His tactics are totally bizarre, and while I don't really care if he catches the current Kira, I am interested in seeing how he'll continue to interact with Light.

Of all the Death Note volumes so far, this may be the weakest, but I've still got high hopes for the series. I'm sure Light's already thought of that.[TOP]

Next up, something a little more old school—a double feature of Dragon Ball Z movies. Packaged in a nice tin case, the two-disc set includes The Dead Zone: The Movie, and The World's Strongest (hint: Goku is the world's strongest, but R. Kelly is still the world's greatest). Before I get into the review, I wanted to make a quick note about the two language tracks. While I didn't mind the dub track, there definitely is some humor that gets lost in translation. In the World's Strongest, there's a great scene in which Bulma looks over to see a brain in a vat. The Japanese version has her saying, “Oh no!” with the subtitles translating that as: [Oh no! (No = brain)]. That, my friends, is funny. Sadly, there's no good way to translate that into English, so the dub track just has, “Eww, a brain!” This doesn't really make any one language track better than the other, but it's just something to keep in mind while you're watching it.

Both The Dead Zone and The World's Strongest deal with the aftermaths of bad guys assembling the seven dragon balls. You would think that since the characters have the Ball Tracker, they could just stop the bad guys before it's too late, but maybe it's easier to do damage control than it is to prevent it. The former feature shows Garlic Jr.'s rise to power, but like pop culture's been telling everyone for centuries, too much power always leads to bad things. Being immortal is only a great idea if you haven't already pissed off the world's strongest. The latter feature, on the other hand, shows the rise to power of a couple quirky scientists as they try to take over the world. Goku and Piccolo team up to save the day both times, but they definitely owe their hides to Gohan, Goku's scrappy son who will someday usurp his dad as the king beef.

There is one scene that totally cracked me up in The Dead Zone, though. After being kidnapped by Garlic Jr.'s gang, Gohan eats a fruit that's supposed to make him inebriated. What we get instead is a crazy set of scenes with rainbows and dinosaurs. If every Dragon Ball Z movie featured kids experimenting with narcotics, I'd have so much more love for the franchise. As it is, I can appreciate the humorous aspects of the show, but it's not really for me.

I can understand why so many people like Dragon Ball Z, but I suppose my tastes have just strayed elsewhere. These mini-features are kind of fun, though. They give you a good sample of the series, without forcing you to sit through entire seasons for fights, and for people like me who can only handle our Dragon Balls in small doses, it works out well.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Have fun, and I'll see you next week!

This week's shelf only has one picture, but it comes with a great story.

I'll let the original email speak for itself:

This is my collection in my classroom, room 112 in a very urban high school in Jersey City , New Jersey .

For the past few months I have spent more than I would like to admit building up this library in order to feed the addiction of my manga hungry students who "can't hardly" afford to buy these books. I can't buy them quickly enough and I sure can't keep them on the shelves, and that's a good thing. I have even convinced the great folks who donate money to public school teachers through to bankroll me for some of these titles. Ain't this a grand world, after all?

The posters and the plushies are mine and if anyone dares to touch my Fluffy, well let's just say it won't be pretty.

Theresa D. Brown Lincoln High School

That's a really nice thing that Theresa's done, so kudos to her for spreading the love of manga to her students.

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

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