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Shelf Life
Training Your Dragon Ball

by Erin Finnegan,

Anime Boston nearly killed me with scheduling. I had to finish my panels in time for the con, my Japanese homework was due Monday, and there was an Otaku USA magazine deadline the same day. On Tuesday I had a job interview. I was so stressed out about everything that I had a nightmare about my panels and I got a huge cold sore on my lip the week before. Thankfully no one said anything about it; it was probably less obvious than I thought.

In the end, there was just enough time to do everything. My panels went really well, I turned in my Otaku USA reviews on time, I finished my homework, and the job interview went pretty well, too.

Looking back on it, there are some things I would do differently if I were going to give those panels again. I'm definitely applying to do some of them again at Otakon, so you can look for the “1.11” version of Cooking with Manga and Unusual Manga Genres if I get approved.

I reviewed Evangelion 1.01 like some kind of n00b. I wasn't aware of the upcoming 1.11 edition (or I forgot about it). 1.11 has brightened some of the darker scenes, includes a Blu-ray disc, has three minutes of additional footage, and includes some animatic (timed storyboards) comparison videos and promotional trailers on an extras disc. Obviously most people are going to want to buy this edition of the movie.

Isn't part of the fun of being an Evangelion fan buying it over and over again in different editions? I'm not much of a traditional collector. I mean, I don't keep my toys mint-in-box, I actually play with them. My platinum edition of Evangelion is just fine, I only need to own the TV series once. The clean-up of this film is by all means a good thing, but if you bought the first release and you're not a collector, and you don't have a Blu-ray player, you don't really need to pick up 1.11. The extras aren't terribly exciting.

In one of the extras, screen comparisons are set to music in two different cuts, Ravel's “Bolero” in one, and Eva music for the other. They compare the animatic to 1.01 to 1.11. Then there are a dozen or so different cuts of the TV commercials. These extras remind me of the hundreds of Evangelion AMV's I've seen over the years. (Some of my favorites are "Numb" by scsa20, "Engel" by Kevin Caldwell, and "YOU'RE WEEEEEEEAAAAAAKKKKKKK!!!" by ssgwnbtd.) Even with new footage (will Caldwell someday re-do his classic VHS rips?) these commercials just feel like a re-hash of a re-hash set to yet another cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” – one that I don't even like.

Speaking of music, I didn't mention it in my last review of this movie, but watching Eva again reminded me how much I really enjoyed the soundtrack. Having a full orchestra score a cartoon series – any cartoon series – can make such a huge difference compared to the usual canned synth. Did you know Steven Spielberg insisted Tiny Toon Adventures use a full orchestra? It was hard on the budget, but totally worth it. (Lately I feel like I wasted 5th and 6th grade watching Tiny Toon Adventures reruns.)

I received loose screener discs of 1.11, so I can't vouch for the included booklet. However, I am a fan of booklets as extras, especially if said booklets have liner notes by Carl Horn or the equivalent of AnimEigo's Otaku No Video liner notes. (Here's a link to Carl Horn's review of Otaku No Video.)

If you've never seen Evangelion, and you self-identify as an anime fan, you really ought to watch it. If you're short on time, check out this movie, then maybe watch the original series if you thought it was interesting. I'm a big believer that some shows are "canon" for the U.S. fanbase. I was really shocked to find at Anime Boston that a lot of the crowd hadn't seen Akira. Akira is definitely canon, and Shelf Worthy, and it just came out on Blu-ray, so there is no excuse! (Unless you're young, as Akira is rated R for hyperviolence, gore, insanity, drug use and terrifying apocalyptic visions of the future.) I also consider Otaku no Video canon.[TOP]

The original Dragon Ball is canon too, but it's a lot longer than Akira

I think it's generally accepted that there's a statute of limitations on spoilers. If something is more than 10 years old, and particularly if it's a mainstream title, spoiling it is OK. Therefore, I don't think it's a huge spoiler to say that in this set Goku finds all the dragon balls and makes a wish.

This was an extremely satisfying box of Dragon Ball. I gave the previous season a rental shelf rating, because it often smelled like filler. This set did not feel as filler-heavy, although I'm fairly sure some of it was not adapted directly from the manga.

After Goku summons Shen Long and makes his wish, I was wondering where the series would go. How could it still be compelling for more than one episode? It's like if Lord of the Rings kept going for 30 minutes after they destroyed the One Ring (oh wait, that happened! That movie has 5 distinct endings before the credits roll).

Goku doesn't want to re-collect the dragon balls right away, thank god. Instead, for a third of the box, Goku ditches Kinto-un (the flying cloud) and trains for three years for the World Martial Arts tournament. The training episodes are really weird, with Goku fighting in Hell, stopping magical road warriors, and then going to a county fair with a green fox con artist in some kind of nod to Disney's Pinocchio. These episodes are just odd, rather than grating like the hundred-some-odd Naruto episodes pre-dating Shippuden.

Nowadays martial arts fighting tournaments are a total cliché in shonen shows. Somehow, in the original Dragon Ball, the World Martial Arts Tournament feels fresh. Even if Toriyama wasn't the first manga artist to make his characters fight in an arena, it feels new in this season.

Long running shonen shows are only successful for as long as you care about what's going to happen in the next episode. I gave up on Naruto: Shippuden 100 or so episodes into the series, and I gave up on Bleach around episode 60. I cared less for season two of Dragon Ball, but season three had me hooked. What would happen if Goku was late to the tournament? How is Krillin going to defeat the little mime-looking dude (Chiaotzu)? I'd never seen this arc before, so I really didn't know. I secretly wish Shippuden would have a fighting tournament, because it would be easier to follow than a lot of running around in the woods fighting the Akatsuki.[TOP]

Dragon Ball's cliffhangers really lend well to marathon viewing. The same goes for One Piece.

I complained the previous box set did not conclude anything. This set knocks down all the pins the last season set up.

A revolution is brewing in Alabasta, and it's up to Vivi to talk to the rebel leader in time to stop an all-out war. Meanwhile, Luffy and his crew infiltrate Crocodile's casino to put a stop to his manipulation of the countrymen.

But seriously, who cares about any of that? All I remember from this is a giant crab. In one scene Luffy and company ride a giant smiling crab across the desert at high speed. This crab is awesome, with little reins leading out of the corners of his huge smile. He moves sideways, as you'd expect, and for some reason it's the greatest thing in the entire 5.3 hours. The crab reminded me of Apa from Avatar The Last Airbender. Who doesn't love Apa?

The creatures in One Piece are the best. I loved the Walking Bear from Season Two, the Third Voyage. Sometimes I think I'd rather read a One Piece Monster Manual than read/watch the pirate storyline.

Eventually they lose the crab in a river crossing and the crew are rescued, unexpectedly, by dugongs. I had to look up dugong (turns out they're similar to manatees).

During the climax of the arc, our heroes are locked in a cage made of Seastone, a cop-out device that makes Luffy and other Devil Fruit eaters weak (the cold iron to his fairy). But I'm willing to let the Seastone lameness slide, because the action of that particular scene got better and better. Crocodile throws the key to the cage into his aquarium of giant Banana Gators (Bananawani), who immediately eat it. Then the room begins filling with water as the huge gators pour into the room. It's as suspenseful as the conclusion of any James Bond movie.

It takes a couple episodes for everyone to get out of the cage. I can't imagine watching this as a kid every day after school, one episode at a time. Actually, I can imagine it and it would be great. I still remember the one huge cliffhanger of my childhood; Star Trek the Next Generation ended season three with "The Best of Both Worlds Part I". Captain Picard was transformed into a Borg and it would take the rest of the summer to find out the conclusion! (I was only 11 at the time, so it felt like forever.) In an age where everything is on the internet in its entirety, and where everyone is one season behind renting Lost, it's hard to imagine the “Best of Both Worlds” summer of 1990 ever happening again.[TOP]

This weekend I'm working at the MoCCA Festival (by the time you read this, it'll be over). The company I'm interning at translates French comics and has some original graphic novel series for kids, so I'll be working table E31 next to First Second Books. MoCCA is one of my favorite cons because it's a convention filled exclusively with the types of comics I like to read; that is to say, black and white comics that are superhero-free. That's one reason I got into manga, because of the whole no flying, no tights thing. Increasingly, MoCCA has become a reunion for me, where I meet old animation coworkers, friends from college, friends who make comics, webcomic artists, and Publishers Weekly colleagues (comic journalists colleagues?).

This week's shelves are from Samira, in Kentucky.

"I've been collecting anime/manga since around 2004/2005. I don't have a lot of anime because I'm mainly a manga person. I have some other DVDs that aren't shown in the picture like the Tsubasa/xxxHOLiC movie and Tokyo Babylon. I also have some manga series that aren't shown in the pictures because.. well I have no space, and I've stopped collecting them. I want to sell them sooner or later. I have a pretty small game collection as well, but it's growing slowly. Since I'm always buying manga every month, if you post this picture, it will probably be out of date by then."

Here's to finding more space!

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