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Shelf Life
Into the Abyss

by Erin Finnegan,

On Sunday, I will drink a Miller beer in honor of Arbor Day. Maybe I will pour one in honor of Carl Macek. I knew Macek was important, but I didn't realize quite how important he was before the recent ANNCast interview, which was very informative and their best episode so far.

The Miller beer on Arbor Day is in tribute to a fanparody with Serial Experiments Lain jokes, which started off riffing on "Present Day! Present time!" before dwindling to "Arbor Day! Miller time!" It was an unfinished fanparody I saw at Otakon one year about Digital Rights Management, and I thought it was by Studio Sokodei, but maybe it wasn't. I don't normally drink Miller beer at all. I prefer a fine Aardshark or Rusty Tricycle. Basically it'd better be a $6 beer from Belgium served in a fancy glass if I'm going to squander precious calories on it.

Kenichi can probably eat a lot more than me, considering he exercises using every form of martial arts on a daily basis.

Maybe watching the first disc of this set in HD was a mistake. Kenichi's character designs are a little homely, and the production quality in unimportant episodes ranges from cheap to craptastic. Watching this in HD was a bit like watching Tom Baker-era Doctor Who on Blu-ray. That series was meant to be seen on a 10" TV using an antenna with snowy reception. I mean, you can see the monsters' zippers even on the shittiest television during a thunderstorm.

Disc two was less jarring with better animation, but I couldn't tell if it was because I was watching it on my standard TV screen or because an arc-ending battle was animated by the A-team of animators.

Admittedly, I have not seen the first season of Kenichi. This doesn't seem to matter much in the case of shows like School Rumble or Kaze No Stigma, but it matters a lot for beloved titles like Clannad. I had seen Funimation's brilliant KenIchi trailer, so I knew basically what to expect. Our protagonist is a weak little dude with the (very) hidden talent to become a brilliant fighter. He lusts after the busty Miu, a skilled martial artist and the granddaughter of the dojo elder.

I love training montages. Unfortunately, Kenichi has already trained a whole lot and is a pretty strong fighter at the start of season two, so montages were few and far between.

A lot of the plot focused on stopping Ragnarok, not the Norse mythology end of the world in this case, but a gang named Ragnarok. Loki is one of the featured bosses. Between KenIchi and Detective Loki I'm already sick of anime ripping off Norse mythology, and I haven't even seen Odin - Photon Space Sailer Starlight [sic] yet.

This volume of KenIchi was forgettable. Kenichi's master fights his evil brother. Kenichi's adoring little sister gets kidnapped. Kenichi fights the bad guy's mighty disciple.

In one slightly more interesting episode, Kenichi is forced to learn sumo to fight an opponent. That's cool. If part of the conceit of this show is that Kenichi knows every kind of martial art (including Muay Thai), I'd like to see him learn more and more obscure techniques.

I got the feeling from the trailer that Funimation's marketing material for this show is better than the show itself. They probably paid more for the catchy graphic design on the box than the production budget of a single episode.

The dub is fine. Todd Haberkorn is annoying as Haruo, but he's supposed to be. My husband thought that Haruo might be the new most annoying sidekick in anime, although Haruo didn't bother me that much. At first, Haruo is referred to as an alien, but later someone calls him out as being a demon. Either way, Haruo is an other-wordly jerk.

If you think you're in for some mediocre martial arts fun with KenIchi, you're right! This show is perfect for younger boys who are really into martial arts, but it didn't hold my attention very well. [TOP]

Wait, let me rephrase that, the addition of bouncy breasts did not hold my attention very well. Neo Angelique did the opposite; the inclusion of bishonen held my attention for an equally stupid show.

Is this what it's like when guys watch love comedies with well-endowed girls? Neo Angelique is really dumb, but at least there are cute guys in it. Thanks to Neo Angelique, I think I'm closer to understanding how boys feel about erotic comedies.

Angelique is forced to drop out of med school because she is the cliché Chōsen One, the so-called "Queen's Egg" who can stop the monster attacks using her magical purifying ability. (Some of the monsters look like the iconic 80's Wacky Wall Walkers.) If this sounds like a videogame, it totally was. Angelique takes up residence in a mansion , specifically called "The Sunlit Mansion," with several hotties in a reverse harem. Also living in the mansion is Erwin, the cute cat who reminds me of Sebastian from Josie and the Pussycats. (I was suspicious of Erwin the entire time because of Sebastian.) The show takes place in Arcadia, a fictional universe where everyone wears very detailed, vaguely-historical costumes.

This show is so hilariously girly that it's worth checking out for a laugh. Nyx, for example, has the weirdest eyewear ever, sporting a half-monocle, half-pince-nez that's supposed to be sexy (I guess?). Rayne, the redhead sharp-shooter with a Chōker turns out to be a PhD. Samurai-like Hyuga doesn't get nearly enough screen time in my opinion. J.D. wears half-pants somewhere between strappy raver pants and chaps. It turns out he is a robot called an "Artifact" who was found in the Forest of Rainbow Flowers by the Dragon People.

That's so significant I'll say it again: J.D. was found in the Forest of Rainbow Flowers by the Dragon People. If you added in more unicorns and sparkles, this show would have more estrogen than a birth control pill. In case you were wondering if there is a formal ball scene in this show, rest assured there totally is. We had to see the characters in formal wear, in some kind of female equivalent of a beach episode (dudes in tuxes! I'm not immune…).

There is some nonsense in the show about Thanatos. Remember which other crappy show had Thanatos? Dragonaut. From here on out, I'm declaring the Thanatos Rule: Anything anime involving Thanatos is probably kind of crappy.

This show could probably be awesome, but Angelique is so sweet and self-effacing that she's distracting. "I don't know if I'll be able to satisfy their expectations," Angelique says humbly when she gets honored by the emperor. When the harem is fighting over who will cook dinner for her, Angelique feels bad about it and makes dessert for everyone. She spends her free time sitting in fields of flowers.

To me those elements feel disingenuous. It's like some guys made a list of what girls like; cats, flowers, girly dudes, ballroom dance, elaborate costumes, going to med school, cooking. Apparently the series of videogames this series comes from was produced by an all female staff. That's cool, but it is certainly different from what American girls would come up with.

It's annoying that Angelique is the healer. It annoys me the same way that dudes recruit their girlfriends to play the party healer in World of Warcraft. Angelique more or less wishes the monsters away by praying. I'd much rather see an active protagonist who deals the death blow by beheading monsters with a giant scythe or something (like Celty in Durarara!!). I also wish she embraced her roll as the Queen's Egg and kicked ass instead of feeling wussy about it.

There is no dub. The extras are a few super-deformed shorts that reminded me of the super-deformed Avatar the Last Air Bender shorts, except in Neo Angelique they are boring and unfunny instead of hilarious and great.[TOP]

Fortunately, Sgt. Frog is consistently hilarious and great.

Why isn't this on Adult Swim? Sgt. Frog's dub is hilarious, and it just keeps getting better. I think it's a lot funnier than Shin-chan, particularly after Evan Dorkin was no longer punching up the scripts. I would totally hire the Sgt. Frog writing staff to punch up my show, if I had a show. I'm just saying, it's that good. Season one, part two was also Shelf Worthy.

This volume has a running gag about Twitter, which although hilarious, is odd, because I know Sgt. Frog aired in Japan in 2004, so it dates the dub. I think it's hilarious at this very minute, but it's hard to say if these jokes will still be this funny in 10 or 15 years. Maybe in the future watching this will be like watching Laugh-In now. But as of 2010, you should be watching Sgt. Frog, while the jokes are still fresh. And you should watch the dub, because in Japanese Sgt. Frog is only Rental Shelf.

I wrote down my favorite jokes as I watched the episode, but I don't think relaying them out of context in the review is going to be funny. I will share one line; in one episode, Keroro and his men (frogs) become huge fans of an new anime remake of a classic show. The next week they purchase a room's worth of merchandise. In the subs, Keroro says "I can't help but to buy them, as a fan," to the critical Corporal Giroro. In the dub, Keroro says "It's my responsibility as a fan to buy products." That is both brilliantly witty, a commentary on fandom in the English-speaking world, and true to the spirit of the Japanese script.

The additional English dub jokes are for and by our demographic, that is to say, people who spend a lot of time living on the internet. I spend so much time with people of my own demographic that I forget there's a larger population out there who aren't in touch with online culture. I had to explain pirates vs. ninjas to the last editor and director I worked with, even though the director was nearly the same age as me. I had to explain lolcats to my parents. My parents would not get all of the jokes in Sgt. Frog, but I am interested in seeing if they would find it funny.

Plot-wise some good stuff happens. The frogs try to create their own anime and learn about real animation (they don't learn much). Keroro buys a defective UFO bike and is stranded in the mountains where he encounters a real frog. Keroro and Natsumi's relationship is especially strong in that episode; she cares about him enough to want to save him, but we know the beatings and forced household labor will continue. That episode is good even without the dub. I'm probably not giving enough credit to the original Japanese work.

Sgt. Frog just doesn't generate as much fanaticism in America as other anime series. I think it's because most anime is serialized with an addictive quality. Sgt. Frog is so stand-alone I never feel strongly compelled to start the next episode. Each episode is satisfying by itself. That's why I think this would do well on Adult Swim.[TOP]

That's all for this week! This whole Icelandic volcano incident has me listening to the Bjork album Debut. I still think it's her best album. I only liked two songs on Post, and her later stuff was too experimental and slow for my tastes.

This week's collection is from Raffi:

"Here's my collection that I've put together over the last 5 years or so. The art book is an Import that I purchased from Acen two years ago. The Cel is from the first Cardcaptor Sakura movie if I remember correctly. Hopefully, with Acen coming up in a month and a half, I'll add to that cel collection. I've also got a bunch of the box set place holder inserts that I've collected in my closet along with my special edition items, but my USB cable does not extend so far :(. Sorry in advance for the poor image quality on some of the pictures."

Looks good!

Want to share your stuff? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com. Thanks!

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