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Shelf Life
Blue Moon Rising

by Erin Finnegan,

Much fun has been made on the ANNCast of "kids screaming internet memes" at conventions. With San Diego Comic Con going on this weekend and Otakon around the corner, I just want to say that I like the kids acting out memes at anime conventions – at a reasonable volume, anyway. I did not approve of the screamed game of "Marco Polo" at Anime Boston 2010, because that's not related to anime at all, or even dork culture in general.

As someone who is 31, older even than Zac Bertschy, I am one of "the older fans" at cons nowadays. In 2002, when I went to my first Otakon, it seemed like everyone else was also 23. I can't reasonably tell if I keep getting older and older and they stay the same age, or what. In any case, the kids screaming memes give me a sense of riding a cultural wave. It's a feeling that Hunter S. Thompson describes in Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas. Before I took over this column, I was starting to fall behind on the latest anime trends, but thanks to Shelf Life, I felt like I was up to date at Anime Boston. The memes make me Feel Young. I might be a critic, but I don't want to be a curmudgeon.

So please take my curmudgeon-y review of Brighter than the Dawning Blue with a grain of salt.

I started off this series with a lot of hope. It's about a moon princess – literally royalty from a lunar kingdom in the near future – who transfers to an Earth school to help smooth over diplomatic relationships some time after an Earth/Moon war. Princess Feema is hosted by the United Nation President's secretary's family. Sayaka, the secretary, is more or less raising her siblings (apparently cousins) in an upscale suburban house. The male lead, Tatsuya, is about the same age as Princess Feema, and they attend school together.

And that is the best excuse for a pretty girl randomly living in one's home that I have ever seen in anime. Even the living-together premise of Ranma ½ seems weak compared to this integral-to-the-plot relationship.

Plus, Dawning Blue is so goshdarn tasteful. It's like Playboy Magazine compared to the Hustler stylings of many series; there are no panty shots or jiggling boobs. The ubiquitous elementary school girl in this quasi-harem house is included in a way that even I couldn't find objectionable.

The first two episodes were alright, but by episode four, I was tearing my hair out. I stomped around my tiny living room cursing and demanding to know which anime series was the first to include an episode where the characters end up shipwrecked on an uninhabited island just off the coast. Is this genre standard Love Hina's fault? God forbid I ever lay hands on a time machine because I will go back in time and make sure Ken Akamatsu was never born if I have to watch one more beach episode that ends that way. (So if I ever disappear completely, I've probably been arrested by the Time Police.)

Dawning Blue is so painfully paint-by-numbers that it could have been written on the same script templates as To Love Ru and Magikano, but those shows are parodies of the magic girlfriend genre. Sometimes, they're even funny. Dawning Blue is not. Every episode doggedly follows genre convention: there's a pool episode, a flashback to when Feema and Tatsuya met as children, a cooking contest between the homemaker archetype girl and girl who always burns stuff, and the inevitable CPR scene.

Anime love comedy CPR scenes used to really bother me. "Geez, grow up Japan," I would think every time. I learned in Health Education class that CPR is serious business, but apparently in Japan, cultural mores about physical contact are so strict that CPR with a pretty boy or girl is alternately hilarious or even romantic (as in Peach Girl). After a half dozen CPR scenes across different series, I've realized that the CPR moment has become procedural. Maybe it was funny, sexy, and/or outrageous the first time it happened in manga/anime, but now a CPR scene practically required. If there is no CPR scene, how will we know that we're watching a romantic comedy? Without it, would it feel like something was missing? (Oh! No wonder this sucked, there was no CPR scene! I hope someone gets fired for this.)

Dawning Blue isn't a horrible show, so I can't reasonably throw it into Perishable for being the unlucky fiftieth series of its genre that I happened to watch. The animation quality is nicely polished. It's not as high budget as the other two series I'm reviewing this week, but it's not too shabby either. Plus Tatsuya really wants to go the moon. I can forgive a lot in a series for having a protagonist that just wants to go into space (like Twin Spica).

This is released by Sentai Filmworks, so there is no dub. I only rented disc one, and I'll probably avoid disc two.[TOP]

My Bride is a Mermaid has nearly the same plot, but at least it's funny and involves the yakuza.

The moral of this review is that you can't judge anime based on the title alone. (You should probably at least look at the cover art.) From the title, I guessed this would be either a jiggly fanservice harem affair, or else a horror series about Japanese mermaids like Mermaid Forest. I was wrong. It turns out it's a yakuza romance-comedy comparable to School Rumble or To Love-Ru. Note: I think School Rumble is Shelf Worthy and To Love Ru is not.

I want to watch more yakuza-related media, but I don't have time to fill a Netflix queue with Beat Takeshi flicks. Mermaid is not exactly the next best thing, but I have to watch what they send me. In this series, Nagasumi's life is saved (and then horribly endangered) when a mermaid rescues him from drowning on a summer trip to his grandmother's beach town. Mermaid law states that having seen a mermaid, Nagasumi must be killed or else marry his rescuer, named Sun Seto. Sun would rather marry the boy she just met than kill him, so she quickly agrees.

There's just one catch. Sun is the daughter of a Mermaid yakuza clan. Her big scary father and bodyguards and clan members are opposed to the marriage and continually threaten Nagasumi's life. When Sun follows Nagasumi back to his hometown to live with him and attend junior high (they're really young!), her obsessive parents and attendant yakuza clan members follow.

Despite being a screwball comedy with plenty of over-the-top reaction faces (think Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo), this is a surprisingly restrained series. And by "restrained" I mean that Nagasumi doesn't walk in on Sun in the bathtub until episode four. (Granted, this is a 26-episode series.) Fortunately, when the bathroom is inevitably destroyed, Sun reveals that she can pay for a new one with her endless stash of ancient gold coins from sunken ships. Sun's parents delight as different parts of the house are subsequently destroyed and remodeled. I approve of this plot-supported house destruction, which is better explained than it is in Urusei Yatsura.

I felt like a super old fogey when I started identifying with Nagasumi's dad, who feels trapped by his 30 year mortgage and a boss who says things like "If you have time to eat, you have time to work!" Sun's yakuza dad, even after rebuilding the house destroyed by comedy yet again, mentions that he won't help with the mortgage. (Note: I don't have a mortgage.)

This show is trying so hard, but it's just not as funny as School Rumble, Excel Saga, the second half of Lucky Star, or the granddaddy of this genre, Urusei Yatsura (which you are encouraged to watch instead). I got at least one laugh every other episode, but that's a terrible ratio.

I hate to say this, but the unfunny is made worse by Todd Haberkorn in the dub. I love love love Haberkorn in the Sgt. Frog dubs, but after episode three of Mermaid, he falls into Keroro mode. Nagasumi becomes an exact reprisal of Keroro, which is fine if you haven't been watching the Sgt. Frog dubs as I've prescribed, but a total bummer if you're a fan of that dub. I appreciate that playing an insane high-energy comedy character who shouts constantly is mighty hard work, but geez, at least try to create a new character.

When pop star "Lunar" was introduced to rival Sun, I was done with this show, and then pleasantly surprised that it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would to finish this DVD set.[TOP]

I was not surprised by this set of One Piece, which met my high One Piece expectations without exceeding them.

According to the voice over commentary, this set marks where Funimation began dubbing the series before going back to re-dub the beginning (previously done by 4Kids). I didn't notice an appreciable difference from the previous set. Maybe Luffy sounded a little higher pitched than usual, but I wouldn't have noticed if the cast hadn't pointed it out.

I usually take notes while watching anime for review. Here are the only notes I wrote for this set, verbatim:

- Furries
- ICP (Insane Clown Posse)
- Background Turtle
- Monkey
- Zoro's V.A. (Voice Actor)

These notes are more than a little misleading, as they only refer to the first half of the set. In this particular DVD adventure, Luffy and the Straw Hats seek out a legendary island in the sky, and as you might guess they totally find it and totally get there. How they get there is really impressive and a lot of fun, so I won't spoil it for you. The episodes leading up to reaching Sky Island are a little dull.

That's where the Furries and ICP come into it. Luffy's crew encounters two ships captained by dudes who look like monkeys (not Furries at all, really), and some evil pirate clowns. At one point a giant turtle is painted as a background element instead of a prop, which will only impress animation geeks like me.

Zoro's voice actor, Christopher R. Sabat, is particularly impressive in this set, leading me to look up what else he's been in, because he sounds so familiar. Turns out Sabat also plays Piccolo (Dragon Ball), Jigen (from Lupin), and Giroro (from Sgt. Frog).

The Sky Island arc plays out about how you would expect it to in One Piece; Luffy and crew encounter some fantastic beasts, just like they did on the winter island (the Drum Empire) and in the Alabasta desert. They break several local rules immediately and become inexorably entwined with the problems of the civilization they've run across, not unlike any given episode of Doctor Who. That said, it'll take Luffy way more episodes than the Doctor to root out the evil lurking in Sky Island's culture.

This isn't exactly an un-satisfying set. It's entertaining, but it ends mid-arc, leaving you wanting more. Granted, I'm always happy to watch more One Piece, and this is adequately "more One Piece" without knocking my socks off. I still feel like a 10-year-old watching cartoons after school whenever I watch this show. If anything, this set reminds me of a childhood spent watching Tale Spin. ('Cause, y'know, air pirates.)[TOP]

I just finished Scott Pilgrim volume six. Who is cosplaying as Ramona Flowers at Otakon? Anyone? Anyone? Everyone?

While I'm in Baltimore next weekend, Bamboo Dong will triumphantly return for a guest column so you don't have to miss a single week of Shelf Life. Meanwhile, I'm getting started on X the TV series for my next column on August 9th. So far, it's really good.

This week's shelves are from Laura:

"My shelves have been slowly multiplying since I was in middle school (10+ years), so my collection is quite eclectic. I have two booksshelves filled with manga and graphic novels, a dvd rack that has been modified to higher levels every year or so, and a glass display case of figures both DC Comics and anime. I run an anime club for teens out of my local library, and all of my collection is available for members to check out and read/watch for a week.

My husband is really into Western comics, and I'm really into anime. Makes for interesting table conversations.

I am most proud of my Utena DVD collection (took me years to track down), my Ashita no Nadja figures, and my hardcover editions of Rumiko Takahashi's Rumic World trilogy and Elfquest , plus my entire run of Sailor Moon manga.

Don'tcha love my DVD bookends?"

Those are some lucky kids!

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

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