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Shelf Life
Mushiroom Cloud

by Bamboo Dong,

Dear readers, I had to take last week off for personal reasons, so I apologize. However, I am back and we've got plenty of goodies to talk about. Well, some goodies, and some not so goodies. But ain't that always the case.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

Big Windup! joins a notable lineup of amazing sports anime with the release of the first 13 episodes. Following a high school baseball team as they slowly battle their way to Koshien, it's a series that combines its love of the game with a heartwarming tale about a team's growing trust and friendship. Like most sports anime, it follows a familiar trajectory of facing bigger and better opponents, but this show does it in a way that makes viewers feel like they're on the team. Each crucial play is explained through the eyes of a character, and the result is a game that's as interesting and as suspenseful as any playoff game—every single time.

Although the series makes an effort to introduce every member of the team, the bulk of episodes focuses on a select few, namely pitcher Mihashi and catcher Abe. Mihashi is, hands down, the most irritating main character that has ever been created. He's shy, he's insecure, he cries all the time, and his face perpetually wears a look of bewilderment and fear. What he lacks in confidence, though, he makes up for in pitching ability—even if he doesn't recognize it, or believe it. With the growing bond between him and the catcher, though, he starts to get over his fears and trust in his skills.

Of course, if you're left feeling like you want to punch him in the nuts every two minutes… it's understandable. Even his teammates get fed up with his BS, but luckily, there's enough baseball-centric drama in the show that it almost drowns out his incessant crying and keeps it fresh. He's not an easy hero to root for, but with all the support from his teammates, he almost becomes bearable.

I'd be hiding something if I didn't also mention that Big Windup! is really homoerotic. The characters don't actually strip each other naked and play leapfrog, but I bet they think about it in the showers. Heck, during training camp, they learn that when men and women share the same bed, they become closer. So in order to be better teammates, they too must rotate futon partners every night. Slash fodder? Of course.

Gayness and whimpering aside, Big Windup! really excels as a sports anime. Having been a big Rockies fan most of my life, I've sat through countless hours of baseball, and I will say that this show is more riveting than your average, non-playoffs baseball game. It's great being able to see the strategy out on the field, and seeing the thought processes running through the catcher's mind gives an extra dimension of suspense to every single pitch. Even if you don't care about baseball, you'll probably still be able to enjoy the show. The games are a lot of fun to watch, the interactions between the characters are great, and by the end of the two discs, you might even get an appreciation for the sport. It's definitely at the top of my “Must See” list right now.[TOP]

If you're looking for something much less serious, and much more ridiculous and goofy, you can always check out the Fullmetal Alchemist Premium OVA Collection, a collection of OVAs that are slightly amusing, but mostly very, very stupid. Having heard the teaser reel for this release at least a dozen times already (“It's called puberty, Ed. Maybe it'll happen to you someday.”), I was ready to watch this thing already.

It's… cute. But that's about the only good thing I can say about it. Other than providing some silly fanservice for diehard Fullmetal fans, it doesn't have much of a reason to exist. The first segment is a collection of “Interactive Experiences” that basically recaps the more technical side of the show. You're greeted by the Fuhrer, who welcomes you aboard the tour, and then you're shuffled off to learn all there is to learn about the plot logistics, like alchemy and its role in society. While it's a quaint way to present the alchemy aspect of the show, it doesn't offer anything new that readers of the manga or viewers of the anime don't already know.

There's also a mildly comical live action featurette, where a giant plastic Al statue is carted around Tokyo on a search for his brother, and eventually ends up at Bones. The jury's still out on whether this stupid thing is the best or the worst thing in the world. After five minutes of staring at a plastic Al, it's enough to hit someone's funny bone, even if it's out of confusion and/or terror.

The rest of the disc includes a short where the characters are celebrating backstage after the release of the Conqueror of Shamballa movie, which involves tons of SD characters and an excess of supposedly whimsical bantering. The crowning short on this disc might actually be the last one, though, where three kids are running through the streets of Tokyo, staring at Fullmetal Alchemist posters and getting lost. Then viewers realize they're Ed's grandkids and a big “awwwww” ripples through fandom.

As mentioned before, it's cute. If you're the kind of person who needs to collect and own every single shred of video out there for your favorite anime, then you'll probably want to pick this up. For anyone who isn't anal about collecting such things, then you can probably give this a pass. If you want to duplicate the experience, you can just force-feed yourself a box of sugar cubes while playing with your Fullmetal toys.[TOP]

Also not high on the gems list this week is Princess Resurrection, a title released earlier in the year by Sentai Filmworks. Supposedly this wacky, full-of-hijinks supernatural anime where gothy people do hilarious gothy things, the show comes off like some teenage girl's doodle book adventure, where all her best friends get starring roles as various villains. Before the third episode was even over, I had rolled my eyes so much they hurt.

Our unfortunate male protagonist, Hiro, is a chap who gets killed in the first few minutes of the show when a giant slab of steel crushes him to death. He's brought back to life by a lolita-wearing princess, who commands the Flames of Life. Sadly, he'll die unless his flame gets recharged by her every few days, so as long as he wants to live, he needs to be her servant and do her bidding, which mostly consists of helping her fight off the massive hordes of bad guys who are always at her door. Rounding out the core cast is a super moe android who can only communicate by saying “Huga, huga!,” and Hiro's sister, who works as a maid for the princess. For obvious reasons (masturbation), she wears a standard issue lolita maid outfit.

Sadly, there is nothing in this show worth masturbating to, because it's so mind-numbingly stupid that I challenge any man to sustain an erection. The show is gothy for the sake of being gothy. Oh, there's an invisible man running around the house? Chase him with a chainsaw! Nothing's cuter than a gal who's running around with a chainsaw and then sets her own mansion on fire. And I guess it's supposed to be funny, too, because look how silly it is! Give her a hammer, because it's so cute!

Supposedly, there is a genuine reason why all these monsters are showing up at her door, but you have to wait a really, really long time before there is enough solid storyline to retain your interest. Unless, of course, you really do revel in just watching a cute girl running around with power tools. I guess one could even say that Princess Resurrection is one of those shows that “gets better,” but I maintain my stance that if it's not good by the end of a 3-4 hour marathon, then I shouldn't be expected to waste my time or money. As it was, by the time my interest started piquing about the princess's past and why her siblings were sending all these monsters after her, I was ready to burn the discs and move on with my life.

To rub salt into the wounds, the animation for this show is really mediocre, despite its Madhouse seal of approval. Perhaps it's a product of too much outsourcing, but the characters go off model more than is acceptable. There are times when characters stare straight into the camera, and it's obvious that their eyes are asymmetrical in size, which is not acceptable. The character movements are choppy and lazy, and the animators couldn't be bothered to make sure that their body proportions stayed the same between scenes. Also, there is an excess of still frames, to the point that it's distracting. I know the economy hasn't been great the past few years, but when I see someone walking across a cafeteria, I don't expect the people behind him to be frozen with their noodles halfway to their face for five minutes.

Unfortunately, it has come to my realization that I may be alone in my dislike of this series, since according to the Encyclopedia rankings, lots of people thought this show was the bee's knees. I guess so, if you like vampires and girls with chainsaws and animation that cost a dollar. I mean, people really like supernatural stuff, to the point where it's kind of not okay to say bad things about it, but I'm going to stand my ground here. I think Princess Resurrection takes too long to get interesting, but if you have the patience of a saint and the wallet of a Rockefeller, then by all means slug your way through this thing. I'll be elsewhere.[TOP]

In an effort to calm myself, I popped in one of Funimation's newer live action releases, the film adaptation of Mushi-shi. Like the anime, it exudes a calm throughout every scene, though in its effort to condense some of the best stories into a 131 minute movie, it's choppier than one would desire. In fact, prior knowledge of the source material is almost necessary, as it helps viewers navigate between the seemingly unrelated scenes, and the constant flashbacks to Ginko's past when he was first lost his eye. Only having seen the various episodes before is it easier to pick out the plot points and know where one thread begins and another one ends.

Visually, the movie is remarkably similar to the anime. The film is appropriately grainy when they're shooting landscape shots of foggy mountains, though I have to wonder if it was in an attempt to mimic the anime, or there just wasn't enough light. The special effects don't look out of place, and although the mushi don't retain the same magic and charm as they did in the anime, they get the job done. There's one scene in particular that's rather pleasing, where calligraphy is crawling up the walls of a shack, and is getting whipped onto blank scrolls. Really, the only thing that sticks out as odd is, not surprisingly, Ginko himself, who looks more like a cosplayer wandering amongst a village of grubby old Japanese farmers.

I was a little shocked to discover that there is also an English dub available on the disc, since it's listed online as just being in Japanese with optional English subtitles. However, there is indeed an English dub, for those who can't stand watching anything in the original language. As far as dubs go, it's fine, but I've never been fond of voiceovers for live-action films, so admittedly, I only listened to the dub for five minutes. Strangely enough, the English cast isn't added to the credits, but rest assured, it exists.

Overall, though, Mushi-shi should please fans of the original series. It gets a little messy at times, but it does a fair job of accurately translating the source material into a movie. Strictly speaking, it's very much a movie that was made to please fans of the anime and manga, rather than filmgoers. For fans, though, it'll be a nice addition to your Mushi-shi collection.[TOP]

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

This week's shelves are from Karen, who had this to say about her collection:

"Hi! My name's Karen and I've been collecting anime and manga for about 10 years now, starting back in middle school. I like the mystery and magical girl genres the most. I'd say what my two favorite series are, but I think you can easily figure that out from the pictures! (E-cookies to whoever names 'em correctly. :)) There's a few DVDs in my collection I probably never would have bought if I hadn't found them $4 each at a blowout sale at a video game store. (Good deal!)

Continuing to buy more for my collection will need to be put on hold for some time as I need to save my money as I finish up my final year of college. Wish me luck!!"

Good luck, Karen!

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

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