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Shelf Life
Gimme Cl'mores

by Bamboo Dong,

Government holidays are pretty much the best thing in the world. Granted, it's a pain in the butt when the post office isn't open, but hey, if I'm allowed to skip work, they're allowed to skip work too. And blessed are the retail and hospitality folks who are continuing to serve my lazy ass when I'm wandering around town, looking for things to do. I wouldn't mind a few more holidays at all. I celebrate my laziness.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Some shows are so ridiculous in their fanservice that they're impossible to hate. How can I begrudge the girls from Ikki Tousen their constant states of half-dress when they barely seem concerned? For reference, we can even take a look at the front or back DVD cover, or the menu screens, which are all full of girls who are downright comfortable and happy modeling their shredded clothes. Hey, you go girls. Don't let the bad guys keep you down. You rock that torn clothing like it's going out of style.

Needless to say, there's plenty of fanservice in this series. But to be fair, that's what Ikki Tousen is known for. See, at the core of it all, it's actually a fighting show. An 1800 year old war is still being fought, only now it's between seven high schools. The only people who are allowed to participate are students who are actually reincarnated forms of the original fighters. Creatively, these folks are called Fighters. Identified by an amulet in their possession, they have all sorts of martial arts prowess. They're so good that a mere punch from a Fighter can blast his or her opponent's clothes into little bits. As is shown several times per episode, this is a very common occurrence. Our lead heroine, a dumb but spunky girl named Hakufu, pretty much wears tatters the whole show. Curiously, it's mostly the women whose clothes get blasted off. Even more curiously, it's mostly the large-breasted women who suffer this problem.

In case I haven't been quite clear, there is a lot of fanservice in this show. It is chock full of boobs, boobs, more boobs, undies, camel toes, boobs, and more undies. Even the non-Fighter characters love showing their stuff, like Hakufu's mom, who has no problems undoing her robe in front of her nephew. On the upside, it's really entertaining. Assuming you aren't offended by this kind of thing (and truthfully, if you are offended by this much fanservice, why were you not warned by the cover art?), you will probably enjoy it. It's ludicrous to the point of hilarity. To say that the fights are over the top would be a heinous understatement. One of the girls even has a move where she squeezes someone's head between her thighs so hard that they end up peeing.

Should you buy this? Well, it certainly has its perks. The characters are silly and melodramatic, and the story is ridiculous, but it sure is a lot of fun. If you go in expecting ass-kicking and plenty of ass to go with it, then you'll get exactly what you were hoping for. I secretly love shows like Ikki Tousen because they know their reason for existing, which is to titillate and not be too serious doing so. I think it's great fun.[TOP]

On the opposite side of the female fighting spectrum is Claymore, whose women couldn't be any more different. They love to fight, too, but the reason they do so is completely different—some of them do it for revenge, others do it out of obligation, but along the way, they are sacrificing their humanity to save people who don't even respect them. With the series on its fifth volume, the fights are getting more brutal, and seeing Claymores getting ripped in half is now commonplace.

Claymore never ceases to surprise me with its repertoire of attack tactics—both from the women and also the monsters. In the previous episode, a very large number of fighters were sent to dispose of several Awakened Beings who were being commanded by a Creature! of the Abyss, which means one thing: battles galore. That means a whole bucketful of new moves and enemies to stare at. One of the Awakened Beings was able to manipulate yoma power, for instance, but he pales in comparison to one of the bad guys' secret weapons, who turns into a giant indestructible lion who can pretty much kill people without even trying. And, if there's one thing I can respect about the show, it's that it isn't afraid to kill characters it's just spent a few episodes talking about. It can be a little harsh, but it makes for a more intense viewing experience, because you never really know what's going to happen in the next scene.

Action aside, what really continues to draw me to this series is its natural pace of storytelling. It has plenty moments of exposition, but it never feels out of place. For instance, there are dozens of Claymores assembled for the current mission, half of whom totally look the same, but the series is still able to pick out a few and focus on them. We get to learn about why they're fighting, and some of their most shameful secrets, but it never feels like a data dump. We even get reintroduced to Priscilla, but in a way that's so unexpected that it's hard to foresee what lies ahead.

Visually, it stands out, too. Not so much because it has jaw-dropping animation, which it really doesn't, but because it's so overwhelmingly drab that it sticks in your memory. With its ash gray color palette, broken up by the frequent splotches of red, Claymore looks as cold as it feels. All the “human” characters are strangely handsome, with chiseled features and expressionless faces. It makes for a good-looking show, but there's definitely something off-putting about it, too.

With only one more volume to go, Claymore is setting itself up for quite the finale. I've heard chatter on the forums that the ending is a little weak, but with this kind of buildup, I can't help but be excited for it. It's definitely been one of my favorite series to follow this year, and I encourage anyone who hasn't seen it to check it out.[TOP]

For something much more light-hearted, I checked out the Karin complete series boxset, a re-release of Geneon's teen romance comedy… with vampires. Unlike a lot of other vampire shows, though, Karin skews to the slapstick side, lettings its attempts at comedy to be the main driving force for the series. Also, the lead girl really isn't a vampire at all—she's an unvampire, someone who needs to inject people with her blood, rather than sucking it. If she doesn't, she gets massive nosebleeds—the kind that create ungainly puddles in the middle of school hallways.

From the feel of the show, it's your basic high school romance. Karin, the middle child in a family of normal vampires, has always had a rough time dealing with her bizarre unvampire nature. Things get hard when she meets Kenta, a guy whose blood kicks her into a frenzy. In order to keep her desires at bay, she needs to keep him happy, so at some point, she offers to cook him lunch every day. For some added fun, we're also introduced to a loud and melodramatic vampire hunter named Winner, whose main role is to provide even more comedic entertainment. Throw in some family drama, some extra nosebleeds, and you've got all the ingredients for a low-rated CW show.

While the story itself is somewhat… banal, since it's just one wacky hijink after another, it still gets by. What cripples the series the most is the shabby excuse for artistry. In particular, the backgrounds are extremely uninspired, with poorly drawn backdrops that must have taken a whole five minutes to do. Detail is a luxury, and instead, we're left with big blocky chunks of color that vaguely resemble buildings or bridges. The animation itself is inconsistent, although it's typically better than the crap they have in the background. Also, the characters are super ugly, which is kind of a shame, given the increasing amount of fanservice that builds up throughout the show.

Even when the series was being released in individual volumes, I found it hard to get into Karin. I had thought that maybe it was because of the slow release schedule, but that turned out not to be the case. Marathoning the show didn't increase my enjoyment of the series one bit. Instead, it just amplified my frustration at how much time was wasted at repetitive visual gags and recycled teen romance tropes. I personally have no desire to ever watch this show ever again, but I suppose if you've been running low on shows about teenagers doodling each other's names in their notebooks, then maybe you ought to pop this on your rental queue. Just don't expect great things.[TOP]

Hey look, kids! There's another season of Dragon Ball Z to watch! What suspense—I wonder what's going to happen in this one! Actually, my roommate has decided he's going to go through the entire Dragon Ball saga, including all of Z and GT, and I've been teasing him mercilessly for a few months for it. Try as I might, I just can't see how there's even a single ounce of suspense in this show, but considering how Z ran for a freakish almost 300 episodes, I am obviously in the minority.

Luckily, for those who are eagerly collecting Dragon Ball Z, you have finally reached the end of your harrowing journey. With the ninth season now available, you can finally see the shocking conclusion of the Majin Buu/Kid Buu saga. For those not familiar with all the names, those are the bad guys who have these fleshy phalluses on their foreheads. Even when they're beating the crap out of Goku and gang, it's still pretty hard to take them seriously. Good thing our ragtag team of heroes is so strong and determined, though. Not to give out too big of a spoiler, but one of their previous enemies even joins them. His name rhymes with Megeta. Can he help them pull off the elusive Fusion Techqniue? Can these two saiyan madmen defeat the greatest of all evils and save the world from a surefire destruction? You will have to watch the thrilling conclusion of Dragon Ball Z to find out, because my lips are sealed.

Despite the sarcasm, I have no animosity towards the Dragon Ball franchise. However, I will say that I vastly prefer the movies to the show, because they're so much shorter. And you basically get the same thing out of them, which to me is like choosing to watch the NBC Original of something instead of reading the book. But considering that Dragon Ball Z isn't really Homer's Odyssey, I don't really feel bad for taking the cheap route. Still, kudos for all the fans who are slavish in their devotion towards the show. You make the anime industry go 'round.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Enjoy yourselves, folks.

This week's shelf-ee is Angel. Behold:

Hi, my name is Angel, and I began collecting anime and manga in my second year in High School with the first volume of Love Hina. I was into anime before then, with Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon (like everyone else, lol) but with my purchase of Love Hina volume 1 began my collecting days.

I live close to New York City, thats why I've been able to get my hands on Japanese manga, but I still can't read it! ( T-T ) I live in a cramped apartment, so I wasn't able to include more pics, Lol. There's actually MORE manga behind the manga already seen in these pics. Space is limited in my place but theres A LOT more stuffed in corners in my room, Lol.

I like how there's a DVD wedged into her video game collection.

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

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