Shelf Life
City of Angels

by Bamboo Dong,

Shelf Worthy
Rental Shelf
Shattered Angels DVD 1
Shuffle DVD 4
Honey and Clover
By the time that you read this, I'll be somewhere in China with my family. Although this means that there won't be a Shelf Life next week, I'll be back in time to do one the following week. I'll definitely be armed with tales of strange foods and exciting sights. I may even try to bring back the ghost of Mao Zedong in a box.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

I enjoy fairy tales as much as the next girl. I like the ideas of princes and princesses, and while I wouldn't mind being whisked away to another world, I'm an even bigger fan of coherent storylines. In fact, when I get the former and not the latter, it makes me feel a little empty inside, not unlike the lead character is Shattered Angels. Named Kuu, which means “empty,” she's always bemoaning how empty she is, and useless she feels. As I watched her and all the other pretty characters jetting all over the screen, I couldn't help but feel the same sense of vastness and futility inside of me.

Shattered Angels, which is based on the Kaishaku manga of the same name, takes a lot of elements from previous works by the authors, like Steel Angel Kurumi and Kannazuki no Miko. It has the same gorgeous artwork and the same doe-eyed females, but its biggest setback is its poorly told storyline. The events occur in a linear fashion and aren't terribly difficult to follow, but the pacing is so jumbled that viewers to fill in a lot of the blanks for themselves. It shouldn't be necessary to have to use the recap at the beginning of each episode to figure out what's going on, but sometimes that was more concise than the nonsense that was going on in each scene.

The story revolves around our emo wunderkind Kuu, who spends her time composing letters in her head to a prince she met as a little girl, and commiserating over how useless she feels. Living in the school town of Academia, things have always been a bit dull until the swarthy Mobile Morality Brigade comes storming through their school. With them is a new transfer student who looks just like the prince of her dreams, all the way from his flowing locks, to his goofy pince-nez. His appearance ushers in a slew of activity, in which girls start fighting each other in the skies with giant robo limbs that are summoned out of thin air. These girls are apparently Angels of some kind, and their energy is recharged via the luxurious kisses of their owners. Also, there's a snaggle-toothed cat girl who ought to be pummeled to death.

As far as the story lets on, these Angels are the product of some shifty science experiment that not only caused immense destruction to the world, but also killed the transfer student's older brother. Unsurprisingly, Kuu has something to do with all of this, but nothing concrete has been revealed yet.

This series does have one thing going for it, and it's the sleek visuals. Whether you like pretty boys who look like women, or pretty girls who look infinitely huggable, or giant robotic arms that materialize in the sky, your eyes will have plenty to feast on. That's not the concern. The concern is how your brain will feel after an episode, as it gasps for air and wonder who the hell copy-edited this thing. Action sequences are only cool if they accompany a story that isn't a mottled pile of ass. Buy it if you must, rent it if you want to, but if your better of spending your time on something that has more substance than fluff.[TOP]

Luckily, my weekly review improved drastically when I laid my hands on Viz Pictures' release of the live-action Honey and Clover film. What a treat! There's truly something magical about this movie, in the way that it captures what it's like to be young. There's a youthfulness and a vitality to this movie, from the way their fling paint onto blank canvas, or chase each other through the hallways.

Following the lives of a few art school students, the movie is there as they learn to find themselves through their art and their time together, and as they learn just how hard it is to fall in love. Just about everyone is in love with someone else, and rarely do their feelings actually intertwine. Regardless, they share their lives with each other, and in return, give viewers a movie that's hard to pull away from. For those who enjoy character dramas, this one is marvelous, and it's definitely a feel-good movie, bittersweet as it is. I haven't read the manga, so I can't compare how the stories are, but as a stand-alone movie, it's a real charmer.

Honey and Clover is the kind of movie that reminds me of my college days, and of all the dumb things I've done, and all the idealism I ever had. I think everyone's had a moment or two like that in their lives, and this film reenacts those times perfectly. If anything, it's a film that could drive viewers to read the manga, because there's no such thing as too much of a good thing. The characters are all immensely likable, despite how flawed they are, and there's a little piece of everyone that's so easy to identify with.

There's a great scene in which the characters spontaneously decide to drive to the beach. Standing near the water, one of them throws up his arms and yells, “I'm the best!” His friend follows with, “Youth is the best!” Nothing could have captured the feeling of the movie more.[TOP]

After that, my decision for what to watch next was kind of a given. I have a secret—I am hopelessly addicted to Shuffle. I am drawn towards harem shows like flies are drawn to carrion. There's something about the asinine situations that these girls land themselves in that pulls me back time and time again, just to see what unrealistic plot twist will happen next.

The series has morphed quite a bit since the first volume. It started out as a simple harem show in which hordes of women were falling all over themselves to be with Rin. Just as he was gravitating towards one in particular, drama struck. The devil child that was living with them became extremely ill, and it was revealed that she was a bioengineered being who could barely contain all the magic power stored inside of her. Now that she's been taken back to the devil world for treatments, Rin is incredibly heartbroken. Making it his mission to visit her, they all traipse into the underworld to see if they can help.

Meanwhile, another previously healthy girl is falling sick all over the place, and it turns out, she's probably on the verge of death too. At the same time, another girl is upset because she harbors a deep secret that involves another death. If it isn't apparent to harem fans by now, creators ubiquitously think that the fear of death is the greatest way to bring out the moe feelings in every man. If I could find one common variable between shows like Shuffle, Kanon, and Air, it would be the prevalence of death. It's just a shame that they lay it on so thick sometimes that it's hard not to start rolling your eyes.

In a nutshell, Shuffle is ridiculous. There's melodramatic, and then there's Shuffle, which resides in a class of its own. This is the only show I've ever seen that can make a common cold seem like the influenza pandemic of 1918. Only, instead of just needing a compress and some soup, it usually comes with some strange caveat, like how regaining health means that you're not allowed to love anymore. If anything, Shuffle wins an award for Most Obvious Metaphor Ever by cutting to a shot of a dead cicada. Hey thanks, guys.

Shuffle has been an emotional rollercoaster, not just for the characters, but for me, too. I started out hating the show, then ended up liking it a bit… now, I'm just stunned by how inane some of the plot twists have gotten. It really shouldn't be this cheesy every time someone says, “Is it okay if I continue to love you more every day?” but man, what a doozy. If only this show wasn't my biggest guilty pleasure ever since Please Twins. With only two volumes to go, what could they possibly dredge up next? [TOP]

That's it for now. I'll see you in two weeks!

This week's shelves are from Nathan, who's been collecting anime since the 90s. The manga that are facing backwards are ones he hasn't read yet. This picture a couple month's old, but it's still pretty impressive!

You know, every week my jealousy just grows.

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

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