Shelf Life
Changing of the Guards

by Bamboo Dong,

I started Shelf Life in December of 2002, almost seven years ago. Since then, I've written 226 columns (this is the 227th), and I've watched approximately two months' worth of anime. In that time, I've lived in three states, worked in four, obtained two degrees, and went to almost two-dozen anime conventions.

I've enjoyed every minute of it.

I remember laughing along with Fruits Basket, crying during Saikano, and cheering with Princess Nine. I remember vigorously defending my love of the pantsu-filled Colorful, and I remember being livid at Chris for sending me a review copy of [email protected] Despite all the ups and all the downs, writing this column has been one of the greatest joys in my life, and I can't thank enough the people who have made it possible: the readers who've stuck by my side, even when we vehemently disagreed over shows; the thick-skinned company reps who still talked to me after I told them their brands belonged in the toilet; and my fearless editors, who defended my opinions, but were never afraid to tell me when I was flat-out wrong.

It's been a great seven years, but it's time for me to move on and pursue the other projects that have been percolating in my mind. It's also time for me to take a step back and re-watch some of my old anime favorites, interact more with other fans, and maybe get back into cosplaying again. In general, just enjoy being a nerd. And thus, I'm handing the reins over to another writer, someone whom I respect greatly, and whom I know will take good care of the column, and bring it to newer and greater heights.

Starting next week, Shelf Life will be written by Erin Finnegan, whose impressive resume includes Publishers Weekly Comics Week online, Otaku USA, and her podcast, The Ninja Consultant Show. She's a talented writer and best of all, she's still very much in love with anime, so you'll be getting a fresh perspective and a fresh voice.

I may be leaving Shelf Life, but I won't be leaving ANN. I'll still be bringing you Chicks on Anime every other week, I'll still be on the front lines during convention season, and I've got a few secret projects up my sleeve, so keep your eyes open. For updates, you can follow me on Twitter at @ANN_Bamboo. In the meantime, thank you for all your support, and I hope you keep reading Shelf Life!

Over the years, I've experienced several highlights and lowlights. Here's some of the stories I've always wanted to tell.

Confusion over my name

Ah, the trials of having first-generation Chinese parents. Who knew that one of the most common Chinese surnames would end up being a euphemism for “penis” in a new country? Not my parents, but I don't fault them for it. Here's to all the readers who have, over the years, come to my defense in the forums and elsewhere with, “Uh… Bamboo is a she.” To all of you: thanks.

Biggest 180 in opinion

When I first started writing for ANN almost 10 years ago, I wrote a very positive review about Love Hina, touting it as the funniest anime I'd seen in ages. For the longest time, I actually believed that to be true, until one day, I hit a wall, at which point I stopped laughing at any of the scenarios in the series. I'm not sure what made me change my mind—maybe it was the slow realization that all the situations were the same, or the culmination of my slow-burning hatred for Naru. But ever since volume 5 or so, I haven't been able to watch Love Hina (except for the Christmas Special, which I continue to love to this day). Unfortunately, my glowing words are still memorialized on the back of the first DVD box, a permanent reminder that I once professed my undying love for the series.

Longest viewed column

For months after its debut, one column continued to get views. Either viewers were really interested in Chobits volume 4, or they were looking at my poorly drawn, visual review of Nightshift Nurses 2 that mapped out my reaction to the show. There's a very good reason I don't have my own webcomic. Who draws like that? Five-year-olds?

Best hate mail

Okay, it's not technically “hate mail,” because this person didn't have the guts to say this to me directly, but it's still pretty good. Every now and then, I Google my own name to satisfy my ego, and see what's being said about me on the World Wide Web. Little did I know that I was being charged for the demise of Christmas itself.

This was taken from the “Love of Anime” blog in 2007, after my scathing review of Ken Akamatsu's Itsudatte My Santa.

”What's wrong with a “hot springs episode” or a Christmas episode? Apparently to Bamboo Dong, EVERYTHING IS WRONG. Like Keith Olberman [sic]would say, “Bamboo Dong, for crapping all over the Christmas holidays with a sense of “bah humbug” and your total lack of compassion for those who please to indulge in a little guilty pleasure due to holiday cheer: you, Bamboo Dong, ARE THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD!”

Hey, at least they also like Keith Olbermann. But I'll take this chance to publicly apologize for ruining Christmas, and for being a Scrooge. I didn't realize my opinions were preventing others from enjoying the holidays; I'm sorry.

Best hentai ever

By best, I actually mean worst. But also the best, because I have forced many people to watch this. That title is, of course, The Duchess of Busty Mounds, which won me over with the line, “My balls yearn to be on your chin!” For reference, that was what the son said to his father's former wife. When I moved away from Rhode Island, I hid that DVD under one of my housemate's pillows. Rumor has it that the disc is still floating around from one unsuspecting viewer to another.

Bamboo hates moe

This is just silly. It became popular at some point to claim that I hated all things moe, because of a few negative reviews, but I will defend Air and Please Twins to my grave. Especially Please Twins, because it's seriously one of the most entertaining shows ever made. Yeah, it's two girls fighting over a guy who might be their brother, but you can go sit in the corner with your Judgement Hat.

Best esoteric live-action release

ADV went through a phase where they released a ton of weird, creepy non-anime titles, notably The Fuccons. While it was terrifying, yet somewhat delightful, my favorite bizarre ADV release was actually Vermillion Pleasure Nights, which was both hilarious, disturbing, and somewhat sexy.

Worst industry butchering of a favorite show

Although this prize should belong to Tokyopop's release of Initial D, I'm actually awarding it to their release of Marmalade Boy. What kind of professional anime company puts, “Yoroshiku!” in the subtitles? Why bother subtitling at all if you're not going to translate anything? Bah.

Dub vs. Sub?

Although I make it a point of listening to every show in both Japanese and English, I prefer to read subtitles. The one notable exception was the dub for Beck, which was absolutely fabulous. Greg and Brina's duet sold me.

Favorite Shelf Life gimmick

Over the years, I've had several “gimmicks,” the most recent one being the Shelf Obsessed section, which I really enjoy (and yes, it'll continue, so keep sending in your shelves!). But my favorite gimmick was my short-lived phase of having photo contests, where I'd ask readers to send in food-themed pictures. My favorite entry was this photo of an octopus lounging on the floor of a fish shop.

Favorite part about writing Shelf Life

There's no way to make this not sound cheesy, but really, my favorite part about writing this column has been getting to interact with all the readers over the years. Sure, we've gotten into our fair share of forum spats, and we've hurled our fair share of insults, but I've never stopped appreciating that people cared enough to argue with me. It's been great talking to readers at anime conventions, and I hope I can count on your support for future projects.

Thanks again for some great years.

There's a very good reason I've never posted my own shelves. Actually, there are several good reasons.

1) I don't really have "shelves." I have giant plastic bins and cardboard boxes full of anime that have just accumulated over the years. They're not alphabetized, and they're certainly not stored in any kind of manner that could be seen as aesthetically pleasing. I've always used the excuse, "Well, if I ever buy a house, I'll be able to have a real library."

2) My stuff is divided between two locations—my junky grad student apartment in California, and my parents' house in Colorado. Most of my figures, gashapon, artbooks, cels, pencil boards, and anime-related tchotskes are in Colorado. It doesn't look "cool" like some of the shelves you see every week. It looks more like a garage sale begging to happen. The last time I was home, I was actually appalled by how much money I'd spent on pencil boards ($500?) that will never see the light of day.

So, here we go. These pictures are a few years old, and I've since reorganized my room since then, and put my figures in a nicer display case with a glass door. The soundtracks are still shoved into a plastic cabinet, and my DVDs are still sequestered within various drawers, bins, and boxes (only one is shown). Coolest thing I own? A Beck poster signed by the cast and crew. (One of the images has a white circle on it, to censor out an offensive in-joke.)

Thanks for everything.

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