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Shelf Life
xxxHol & Oates

by Erin Finnegan,

I have one fond farewell and someone to congratulate, but that stuff is a secret until at least next week, maybe later.

Let's cut to the chase: It's hard to review Dragon Ball Z. Everyone has seen it and has an opinion already, but it keeps getting re-released and they keep sending us screeners and people keep buying it. Why even bother reading my reviews of it, after my reviews of the first two Dragon Boxes? Well, this week I've come up with something a little different. Behold my review of Dragon Ball Z with 1920's slang (graciously added by Eli M. Balin):

Your Humble Narrator is sure that this set is what most of you swells and dames think of as the regular deal for Dragon Ball Z. You've got a couple of big palookas squaring off with such a lather that the very terra-firma on which they hoof goes blooey. I am, of course, referring to the yarn spun as "The Freeza Saga".

I did not watch this set with stopwatch-in-hand, but would bet dollars to doughnuts that over 80% of Freeza and Goku's rumble is razzing and 20% is the bonafide rumbling. I figure that the college boys back in Freeza's hometown can get a sheepskin in Razzing, with courses like Static 101, Peppy Windsucking 102, and Advanced Studies in Chin Music.

After 20+ episodes of Freeza's rattling about how many minutes until he offs Goku, or how much time is left until the planet blows up, it is Your Humble Narrator's opinion that on the subject of time, Freeza is all wet. The mug is probably late to meetings, and offs anyone who calls him on it.

Before the sockdollager is through, we're treated to Krillin's big exit at least a half-dozen times. He explodes in a nasty-looking red cloud of (I am assuming) his own blood. You'd probably be hitting on all sixes if you guessed that the Cartoon Network didn't flash the claret, leastwise not in red. And how!

Meanwhile, Goku's cronies pull a lot of shenanigans with the dragon balls. The additional wish rules are as much hooey and hokum as the rules for using the Death Note.

Halfway through the set, we're given the obviously-a-filler Garlic Junior Saga. It's like one of Marvel's "What If" funnybooks. "What if Krillin had a sheba?"; "What if Gohan gave the slip to crash a party?"; "What if Master Roshi lost his shades?"

Finally Trunks waltzes in, kicks ass, and gives Goku the lowdown on his amusing Back to the Future meets Terminator backstory. Androids 19 and 20 menacingly close out the set on an adequately dramatic yet sad-ragged note.

Your Humble Narrator suspects that Dragon Ball Z has a lasting effect on American audiences particularly because the Freeza Saga falls somewhere between Superhero funnybooks and professional wrestling. Throwing in a bit of the old Scientifiction is pure gravy.

If the Freeza Saga is memorable, it is because Freeza is a memorable heavy. He is monomaniacal, evil, and just plain gives the heebie-jeebies. He plummets headfirst into the uncanny valley. Though he's got the gob of a regular jake, he ankles about like a lizard or a crab on his three-toed dogs.

I was too innocent in high school to think much about Freeza's bright purple lipstick and Charles Atlas physique. Along those lines, I thought Zarbon was the most flamboyant villain, but Gash/Spice puts him to shame. (Not that there's anything wrong with being flamboyant!)

This set seriously teeters on the edge of being "Perishable," but the nice color booklet and the production of the box save it from the trash. I watched this entire box set, only to find out that Dragon Ball Z Kai is a rehash of the same thing with less filler. I'm watching Kai (volume one) next week. If a Dragon Ball Z overdose bumps me off in the end, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, collect all the Dragon Balls and wish me back to life. Because it posilutely ain't worth it! [TOP]

Fortunately the rest of the week made me less suicidal.

I'm not one of those raving CLAMP fan girls like manga reviewer Kate Dacey (just kidding, Kate is a classy lady who indirectly got me this job) but I have to admit this disc is easily Shelf Worthy.

I love CLAMP's character designs (I dig the tall skinny boys), but CLAMP's storytelling is often hit-or-miss with me; I like Magic Knight Rayearth but not Cardcaptor Sakura; I like the Clover manga but hated Chobits (in any medium). I'm always willing to give CLAMP a chance, and to that end, I had previously watched the first episode of Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE and the first nine-ish episodes of XXXHOLiC. I like the XXXHOLiC TV series, but the stand-alone episodes didn't make me eager to watch more, and eventually I forgot about it. I dropped Tsubasa immediately, since it seemed silly and you had to be a CLAMP expert to get much enjoyment out of it. For me, watching Tsubasa would be like playing Kingdom Hearts without being familiar with Disney movies.

This release is a double feature of two dubiously connected 35-45 minute theatrical "films". On one hand, I've always thought it was odd that these short summer movies exist in Japan, but on the other hand, feature films typically have a higher budget so I'm always glad to check them out. CLAMP with a feature budget in HD = a good time had by all.

Even if these movies sucked (which they don't), there are some incredible extras for each. Multiple Japanese publicity events are included, as well as character design slide shows, but the icing on this cake is the commentary tracks. Instead of just a voice over, the Japanese seiyuu appear picture-in-picture, filmed in the studio, so you can watch them comment on the movie as it plays in the background. Multiple Japanese extras is a good enough reason to buy a DVD, but if you're a seiyuu fan, you need this Blu-ray.

The Tsubasa movie is incredibly gorgeous. The plot is summarized concisely in the full title: Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE The Movie: Princess of the Birdcage Kingdom. As advertised, the film takes place in a fantasy world in a forest kingdom located inside a giant birdcage. Our heroes help out a mute-psychic princess who's evil uncle is trying to block out the sun (like Mr. Burns in episode 128/2F16 of The Simpsons, except with magic). The lush backgrounds, flocks of birds, and the princess's sweet clothes are all great eye candy. Unfortunately the protagonists were totally lost on me, since I haven't watched much Tsubasa. We're given a quick recap of the series, which had the effect of making my husband laugh really hard. The Dimensional Witch Yūko¹ is referred to as The Witch of Space and Time, which reminded Noah of the cheeseball movie The Wizard of Speed and Time.

Fortunately, XXXHOLiC the Movie: A Midsummer Night's Dream stands up on its own. Watanuki and his employer Yūko are invited to a dinner party in a creepy mansion obviously modeled after the Winchester Mystery House. All of the other dinner guests are hardcore collectors of objects (like spoons). When the host isn't present at dinner, it's fairly obvious people are going to start getting murdered, and they do, and fast, because this is a short film.

The movie does something cool with textures that's similar to Gankutsuou but more stable-looking. This is an amazing movie to watch for compositing effects. It doesn't blend 2D and 3D as well as Tekkonkinkreet, but it might do a better job at blending styles than Howl's Moving Castle (which looked more seamless on film than it did on DVD for some reason).

The house is a great character in the film. A lot of care is taken to establish the surreal space, so the climactic scenes work really well. The only thing I can think of that's comparable is Alice in Wonderland (1951) with Mary Blair's great designs.

It is certainly accessible to non-CLAMP fans. (Although apparently Carlo didn't think so.) [TOP]

Once again I'm not staggering my reviews very well, because there is another Shelf Worthy title this week.

I've been saying this is Shelf Worthy for several columns now. Have you watched the dub yet? There are dubbed Sgt. Frog episodes on Funimation's website that you could be watching right now instead of reading this (unless you're at work). This set continues to be Shelf Worthy with no drop in quality. If Jared Hedges is going to Otakon, my husband wants to shake his hand. We think he might be the genius behind the adapted script.

Even the shortest anime series have prerequisite Christmas and New Years episodes, but since Sgt. Frog is a longer series, it covers even the more obscure holidays like Setsubun (the 3rd of February), Girl's Day, and the beginning of March (not even a holiday). Also in this set, Keroro and his team try to conquer the world through winter sports (including Bamboo Dong's favorite event, Curling) and by starting a soccer team (hopefully Mike Toole covered the soccer episode in his panel "Anime and the Beautiful Game").

As a show sponsored by Bandai, Sgt. Frog is blatantly commercial, and not above the "How to buy action figure man" episode. It is not surprising in a show where the opening credits feature people buying and wearing Sgt. Frog merchandise that there would be a running gag about how poorly the Kululu figures are selling in real life. I've heard Kululu (the crazy yellow frog) regularly comes in last in "favorite character" polls for the Sgt. Frog manga. His toys really are the least popular in real life (in Japan, anyway). Personally I love Kululu and his Chaotic Neutral batshit crazy attitude, and would totally buy a toy of him (especially if it was on sale). Nevertheless, even I think his voice is a little annoying on both English and in the Japanese soundtrack. I'm sure it's supposed to be.

At one point, humorous Afro wigs are worn as punishment. The worse the punishment, the more Afro wigs are stacked on any given character. Particularly Natsumi, but generally all the characters are totally mortified by this punishment, which I think is odd. I mean, they aren't nearly as bad as those those rainbow clown wigs. [TOP]


¹ Yūko is one of my favorite characters ever. I also like Misato from Evangelion… it's probably a little too telling that I like women who like to imbibe.

This week's shelves are from Jerome:

"Hi my username is Jeromeskee in the ANN community. And here's my beloved shelf that I've been building for the past few years! Hopefully it makes the cut!

I'm a big fighting game and anime fan, and my shelves and walls reflect that.

As you can see, I'm really into marquee posters. Highlights include an original King of Fighters 94 Re-Bout promo poster (extremely rare!!!), a vintage Super Street Fighter II Turbo poster from circa 1995, and an original Street Fighter III Third Strike promo poster for the PS2 release in Japan. The three posters above my shelves showcase three of my all-time favorite anime series, Yu Yu Hakusho, Code Geass, and Bleach.

My top shelf showcases what I feel is a definitive PS2 fighting game collection, at least as far as US releases are concerned. From Street Fighter to Samurai Shodown to Fatal Fury to King of Fighters to World Heroes to Guilty Gear to Arcana Heart to Naruto Ultimate Ninja to Dragon Ball Infinite World to Tekken to Soul Calibur to Dead or Alive, I pretty much have it all!!! My PS1 collection is to the right, which includes such rarities as Darkstalkers 3, Rival Schools, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Gundam Battle Assault 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 1, and an original Japanese release copy of Dragon Ball Z Legends.

My second shelf showcases my anime collection. My personal favorites include the complete Yu Yu Hakusho series, the complete Gundam Universal Century series (from the original movie trilogy through Char's Counterattack), a bootleg copy of Macross: Do You Remember Love? (my all-time favorite anime film), and complete collections of Cowboy Bebop and Vision of Escaflowne.

My fourth shelf showcases my manga collection. As you can see, I own Death Note and Rurouni Kenshin in their entirety! Kenshin definitely is one of my all-time favorites!

Finally, my bottom shelf showcases my Street Fighter Anniversary Stick, released about 6 years ago in commemoration of Street Fighter's 15th anniversary. This stick is a very rare item, and I use it for all of my fighting games!

My collection is not as awe-inspiring as some of the collections I've seen in Shelf Life but I definitely have a lot of rare, quality stuff!"

It certainly looks awe-inspiring to me!

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

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