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Shelf Life

by Bamboo Dong,

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who wished me a happy 200. I really appreciate, and it gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies. So, without any more delay, it's time to jump right back into reviewing again. With fewer and fewer screeners being sent out by the companies, it's getting harder to review a wide range of titles, but I'll keep chugging along as best as I can. In the meantime, here's a week full of Shelf Worthy releases, so at the very least, there is good anime to be watched.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Back when I first started watching anime, Akira was a sort of rite-of-passage for all new anime fans. You couldn't tell any other fan about your new hobby without them saying, “Have you seen Akira?” So whether you wanted to or not, you had to see this film, which has managed to retain its cult status since its release. I don't know if the film is as prevalent amongst modern-day new fans as it was for us, but regardless, it will forever be a classic. Now, in keeping with the times, the film has been remastered and released on Blu-Ray, so you can see Tetsuo's exploding guts in all its high-def glory.

After watching the film, though, I have to admit that I don't really see the benefit in owning it on Blu-Ray. I don't have a copy of the standard def version on hand, so I couldn't do a side-by-side comparison, but on my 1080 HD TV (connected to my player via an HDMI cable), it didn't look much different from any other anime disc I've ever fed to my PS3. Still, watching that movie again reminded me how much I enjoyed it back in junior high. Those old kids still give me the creeps, and the ending makes me nostalgic for the era where every other anime ended the same way—with childhood flashbacks, soft pastels, and worlds exploding into rubble.

For those younger readers who might not be familiar with the work, Akira is one of the most celebrated post-apocalyptic, supernatural flicks ever released. After World War III left Japan a charred heap of buildings in 1988 (ha!), things slowly descended into chaos. Flash forward to 2019, and we learn that things haven't really improved, and motorcycle gangs run rampant. After one particular incident, a young man named Tetsuo gets taken by the government, who starts running medical tests on him. He eventually develops telekinetic abilities, and we learn that he isn't the only one. Meanwhile, his friend Kaneda is trying to rescue him, up until a certain point when he realizes that Tetsuo is one big heap of trouble. Everything goes haywire, and things explode.

Having not seen Akira in several years, I was surprised how much fun I had while watching it. The iconic musical score sounds even greater after the audio remaster, and that crazy chanting blasting from my speakers really brought me into the scene. The ending stunned me as much as the first time I watched it, and it reminded me why this movie was so beloved. I don't know if the high-def treatment is worth purchasing it again, but the remastered sound is great, and reliving it definitely worth doing. Even if you choose not to buy this, it might be worth dusting off your old Akira DVD and popping it into the player again.[TOP]

While I was about halfway through watching Akira, my roommate chuckled and said, “You know what would make this cooler? Black Japanese samurai.” I instantly got what he meant. The previous night, we had watched Afro Samurai: Resurrection together, and commented on how it had everything necessary to make it an instant hit—explosions, crazy fight scenes, angry yelling, and a wicked musical score—the same type of superficial elements that makes Akira still so appealing to such a wide demographic.

Afro Samurai: Resurrection takes place a few years after the end of the OVAs. Afro has become a bit of a recluse, only interacting with people whenever they come to fight him for his #1 headband. His past catches up with him when he's confronted by Jinnosuke, the guy with the teddy bear head. Turns out, Teddy Bear Head's sister, Lady Sio, has a bone to pick with Afro, and wants to punish him for all the sins he's committed, so she takes his headband and forces him to go look for her. She also resurrects his dead dad. Eventually, everyone ends up in this massive showdown, which is resolved in the most ludicrous way ever.

It's almost impossible to dislike Afro Samurai. True, the story is a little bogus, and the dialogue is a poorly written, but the show is made to pack a lot of oomph, and that's what it delivers. The art is absolutely gorgeous, and the movie leaks with style. From the gravity-defying clothes to the bold colors, everything about the visuals is stunning. Even the naked girls are fun to look at, with their glistening skin and their ridiculous breasts. But no breasts are as ridiculous as Lady Sio, whose saggy windsocks are barely covered by a miraculous sheaf of clothes. Every shot of her either profiles her pouty lips, or her ludicrous cleavage, and if I walked away with anything stamped into my brain, it was her chesticles.

The music is incredibly awesome, too, and hits the same level of blood-pumping, bass-pounding cool that permeated the OVAs. In fact, many things in the movie are very similar to the OVAs—the only exception being the storyline. All the voice actors have stayed the same, and everything that you might've liked about the first Afro Samurai will be present in this one. Even Afro's quirky conscience, who goes around saying things like, “Oh snap!” and “Awwwww haaaaale naw.” Truly, this movie has everything that a teenager would snap up. And with good reason—it doesn't even matter if the story is ridiculous, everything else about this movie is certifiably badass, and that's all you need to be entertained.[TOP]

Moving on to something completely different, I was happy for the chance to watch the second part of the first season of The Story of Saiunkoku. Shuurei has become the first female government official, and Eigetsu the youngest. Instead of giving them accolades, though, everyone else is bullying them and drowning them in mountains of work. Even so, with a lot of hard work and brains, they manage to slowly win the other officials over—until rumors start spreading that Shuurei cheated on her exams. Then… she and Eigetsu get kidnapped, betrayals are made, and things go nuts.

Despite its sugary colors, Saiunkoku is one of the best dramas available right now. The character development is top notch, and it's nice watching a show where people have realistic, hard-working dreams like becoming government officials. I'm especially enthralled with Shuurei, who's so different from the average anime heroine. She dresses conservatively, she has big dreams, and she's smart as a whip. She's not necessarily a character you'd immediately want to buy a body pillow for, but she's classy and respectable, and I think she's a great role model. All the people she hangs out with are cut from the same cloth, and it makes the show more fun to watch.

Most of all, this series is incredibly down-to-earth. Even though it's set in a fictional world, the characters are realistic and the action elements go well with the story. If it didn't come with a big goofy streak, it could easily pass for a period piece you'd see on TV. It's still a relatively unknown show, but I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something fresh and unique.[TOP]

Lastly, the one show I can't stop watching—Claymore. With volume three, we get to see more of Clare's growth. After revealing that her abilities were especially honed to hunt Awakened Beings, she now seems to run into many of them. Things slow down a bit when her arm gets cut off, but eventually things are back on track again when she learns a new skill and gets a pretty fantastic present from an old acquaintance.

As Clare gets more and more badass (somewhat ridiculously so, actually, since it seems unrealistic that she'd drastically increase her skill in the matter of a few days), the show gets more interesting to watch. Partially, it's because she's no longer the sniveling weakling that she was at the beginning of the show, and she's continuously one step closer to her eventual showdown with Priscilla.

I've taken a strong liking to Claymore. I find it to be visually stunning, without really making too much of an effort. With everything painted in subdued hues of whites and grays, it has a bleak atmosphere that's simplistic, yet alluring. All the Claymores look very similar, and the uniformity is appealing to the eyes. Plus since we know that all the women possess unhuman skills, it doesn't really matter that the fight scenes are just big blurs. So with all the stark colors, the sword blurs, and the crazy sound effects of a hundred swords clashing every second, it's a superhuman party that never ends, and I love it.

People have warned me that the ending to Claymore isn't all that it's cracked up to be, but for right now, I'm completely happy with the series. Every new skill that Clare learns makes me admire her more, and if it weren't so dorky to start a Facebook fan group about her, I totally would. She's cool, she's (increasingly) deadly, and she's the kind of heroine I could get behind. Claymore has always been pretty sexy, with its cold, svelte women and its big swords, so if you're looking for something sultry, yet deadly, to throw yourself behind, check out this show.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from James and Melissa, from Vancouver. They had this to say about their "shelves."

My wife and I have been collecting Anime and Manga for about 10 years now.

Here are our "shelves" of Manga, aka when we inventoried all of it. We estimate that there we have about 2000 manga volumes. In addition we have something like 1000 DVDs in storage of Anime.

The collection dwarfs any that we have ever seen outside of a store.

That sure beats what I've seen in my local B&N, that's for sure.

Want to show off your shelves? Send your jpegs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com. Thanks!

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