Shelf Life
The Giving Tree

by Bamboo Dong,

I jumped out of a plane this weekend, and it was the coolest experience in my entire life. Seriously, everyone should put it on their bucket lists, or whatever. Now I'll have to stick with more mundane thrills, like riding elevators and brushing my teeth with the lights off. Maybe I should look into this skydiving license thing.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

The neverending circus that is Shuffle finally comes to an explosive ending in the sixth and final volume. I thought the creative team couldn't pull any more plot twists out of their asses, but I was completely wrong. After all, there was a whole four episodes left, which meant plenty of time to have more dying women and miracle cures. Without spoiling the ending, Rin does end up picking a girl, but she's got a hell of a secret. Shockingly.

Throughout the whole thing, I've kind of treated the series as a giant freak show, because that's essentially what it is. Human drama is one thing, but when everyone's some kind of creature, or psychopath, or split-personality crazy person, it just becomes a strange joke. With that said, I do really like the male protagonist. I do think a lot of problems could've been solved if he'd just said to some of the girls, “Look, I don't like you, stop trying,” instead of trying to please everyone like a sissy, but he's a good guy. This is especially prominent in the last volume, when he makes the decision to move out so that Kaede can try to get over him and live a normal life.

In the end, I don't really know what to make of this series. It started out as a pretty ridiculous harem series, with far too many girls, but in the last half, it was almost like a bad dream. Everyone had some kind of sinister secret, and even the final climax is kind of gruesome. It's certainly not something you'd watch to put yourself in a peppy mood, but it doesn't entirely function as a solid drama series, either. Especially since the show seems to shy away from staying dramatic. Every time something ghastly happens, it's swept under the rug, and bandaged with a smattering of, “I'll still love you forever!”s. It's conflict for conflict's sake—not as any useful part of the narrative, because even with all the crap going on, it's still a painfully mundane show.

Quaintly enough, the back of the DVD still has the chipper question, “Which girl would YOU choose?” And I can safely say that if I were in Rin's position, I'd move to a different town. I could see viewers enjoying this series as casual spectators in this jungle of emotions, but if at the end of it all, you can still say to yourself, “Ah yes, I'd pick her,” then you have a stronger stomach than I. Shuffle is bad enough that it almost borders on irony, so if that appeals to you, then you should check it out. Other than that… well, good luck.

Oh, and just in case this changes anyone's minds who are sitting on the fence-- you can get the last volume in a boxset that also includes panties. Indeed.[TOP]

For those of you who have aspirations to move to Texas or LA and become a voice actor (Don't.), the next disc might interest you: the first volume of Adventures in Voice Acting, part of the Bang Zoom! Guide to Voice Acting. This first volume deals primarily with anime, and gives viewers an interesting look into the world of voice acting. Chances are, if you're one of those voice actor fanboys/girls, then you might enjoy this for the sheer joy of watching your favorite actors talk about their jobs. Some of the faces you'll see include Kari Wahlgren, Lex Lang, Johnny Young Bosch, Michelle Rodriguez, Lance Henriksen, Laura Bailey, Crispin Freeman, Kyle Hebert, Steve Blum and about a million others. Seriously, every big anime voice actor is on this thing.

There are five episodes on this disc—“What is a voice actor?,” “The process,” “Finding a way in,” “Advice,” and the quintessential question, “Is it worth it?” The chunks are presented as a collage of sound bites from the actors as they answer questions about how they got into it, what their first jobs were, and other such questions. Many of the accounts are anecdotal, and they're fun to listen to. For the most part, though, it's more of a glimpse into the lives of the actors themselves, rather than a solid look at the actual voice acting industry. You'll gleam lots of information from the interviews, sure, but it works better as a behind-the-scenes than anything else.

To confess, I actually almost turned it off after the first minute, because the intro was really freaking annoying. The first thing we hear is Vic Mignogna reading the damned FBI Warning in a series of voices. I wanted to bail out right then and there, because I thought it would be one of those “woooooaaaaah, we're whacky voice actors!!!” shows, but after that brief moment, the rest of it is fairly interesting.

Considering it's just a collection of people talking, it does have the potential to get boring. With the fast way that it's cut, though, things keep pretty fresh. The stories that the actors tell are entertaining, and it's nice hearing about the beginning of their careers. If you're hoping the disc will reveal the secret of “How to Be A Voice Actor,” though, you're out of luck. These guys will tell you what you already know—that it's a combination of talent, luck, and sometimes knowing the right people. So, don't buy this because you think you'll wake up in Flower Mound with a part in the next big tournament anime—buy it only if you really want to know what these people are like.[TOP]

Now here's something fun. Around this time last year, Geneon was all set to start finishing their release of the second season of Kyo Kara Maoh, but had to cease their distribution. Now back on track again, with the help of Funimation, Geneon can continue finishing up their previous titles. This disc of Kyo Kara Maoh starts off with a minor tale about a bridge that's being built between the human and demon lands, and how creatures called light wolves are trying to destroy it. Some previous characters are brought in again, but once that's dealt with, the series starts focusing on the real story.

Jumping back in time to the beginning of the first Great One, the story tells the origin of the four sealed boxes, and how they came to be. Since it's almost time for the boxes to be sealed again, it's good to see just what they are, and the consequences that the contents could have on the world. However, a welcome surprise comes when demon king Yuri's brother comes tumbling in from Switzerland, only to land up in the castle's courtyard. He's still very protective of his younger brother, so when he's given the option to help battle whatever the kingdom might be facing next, he obliges.

There's quite a bit of foreshadowing that goes on in this volume. It doesn't go unnoticed that the present characters are spitting images of several of the important players around the era of the first Great One. When things start oozing from the boxes… well, obviously trouble's going to start.

It's nice being able to continue to series once again, but it's a little hard to get back into the swing of things. Having not seen this show for almost a year, it took a while before I could remember what was going on. I almost didn't remember who the characters were, and it took a couple of episodes before I had a vague recollection of all the episodes that came before them.

For those who never got the chance to watch the series, it's a decent time to jump in and start watching the show from the beginning. I recall not being particularly enthralled with the series at first, but eventually it grew on me. It has plenty of fantasy elements, but it doesn't beat you over the head with the demon-human interaction. If anything, it could be taken as a simple parable for foreign relations between neighboring humans, and it's interesting to see the mild distrust that people have for those unlike them. If you're looking for an engaging story, but without the silly elf clichés and all the other stuff that comes with so many fantasies, then this is a good show to check out.[TOP]

After watching pretty boys run about for a couple hours, I decided to pump up my energy levels by ingesting some Dragonball Z. As they have been doing for some time now, Funimation's continuing to re-release a variety of DBZ products, including several double features. Their most recent one combines Tree of Might with Lord Slug. As the cover implies, there are lots of meaty men, lots of rage, and lots of dudes grunting at each other.

Tree of Might is easily of the lamest DBZ movies ever made. The premise is that there's a tree that can sap away the energy of whatever planet it's planted on. You just throw down the seed, and before long, the tree turns into this giant awful mess that's almost impervious to attacks. Unsurprisingly, it's being nurtured by a Saiyan, who's hoping that he can eat he fruit of the tree, so he can get all that energy. Obviously, our heroes won't stand for that nonsense, so they barge in, and then they fight for about an hour. People get beat up all over the place, they wail at each other with energy attacks that send their opponents flying across the landscape, and eventually Goku saves the day.

Lord Slug is a bit better, though not that more inspired. An old, old, super old Namekian comes to Earth in search of the dragon balls. His wish? To be younger. He lands on Earth, then proceeds to plunge the entire planet into a super deep freeze while his minions go around looking for the balls. Eventually, a giant battle erupts between him and our ever-ready protagonists. Luckily, Goku and friends have the help of Piccolo, who knows the weaknesses of the Namekians. He tells Goku how to stop Slug, and the world is saved.

Of the entire Dragonball Z franchise, I think the movies may be the weakest. They don't really serve any purpose, and they don't really fit into the storyline, so they're completely extraneous. I guess it could be awesome for people who really need to know everything that involves every Saiyan ever, but you'd probably get more out of just watching the TV series. Still, for those that really want to own this thing, I still think the bilingual language option is great. I know bilingual anime has been the norm for several years now, but for those of us who had to deal with all the weird hard rock that always permeated DBZ dubs, it's nice having the old folksy theme songs back. Some people probably like hearing Finger Eleven and Disturbed playing while Goku and company are punching things, but give me the old goofy music any day. Ultimately, I don't know that I'd ever see this in the stores and think, “Yes! I can't wait to buy this!” but hey, I'm not a hardcore DBZ fan. For those of you who are, enjoy the new packaging; everyone else should just stick to the series, if DBZ is your thing.[TOP]

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

This week's shelves are from Graham of Fairfax, VA. I'll let him discuss his own shelves:

I want to show you some serious shelves.

Those are all my non-anime DVDs but only 75% of my anime DVDs( approx $15,000 over 12 years)

The manga shown represents only about 25% of my manga.

And none of my regular books are shown.

Some people think I spend too much money on my collection, but then I point out that a lot of people will drop $10,000 on a jet ski or $30,000 on a boat. If I've $20,000 to $25,000 spread over 12-14 years I've actually spent less on my hobby than most people.

Well that's my 2 cents

Also it should be noted that I have converted just about all my cases to slim cases, allows me to put almost twice the number of volumes in a given space.

Actually, I wouldn't mind a nice sailboat, but those are some pretty nice shelves, too.

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

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