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Shelf Life
Junjo Come Here

by Erin Finnegan,

Satoshi Kon was (is?) my favorite anime director after Hayao Miyazaki. Once Carl Gustav Horn said something to me at a convention like, "Satoshi Kon's latest movie made 1/100th of the money of Ghibli's latest, but does that mean it was 1/100th as good?" Because I couldn't remember exactly what Mr. Horn said, I emailed him, and he sent back this lovely statement:
"…in his own country, Kon couldn't count on one-twentieth the audience a Ghibli film could; not one-fiftieth, not even one-hundredth. From the perspective of a foreign critic, Kon was so neglected by Japanese audiences he hardly registered with them at all. As we've come to know from his extraordinary final letter, Satoshi Kon was a man of grace as well as genius, and of the money his films made, he graciously said that they got what they deserved. But I don't have Kon-sensei's grace, and in sadness and anger I say, no, they did not get nearly what they deserved."

I'll post the rest of the quote in the forum. Eventually I want to have a Satoshi Kon marathon edition of Shelf Life, but I'm going to hold off on that while ANN does a long retrospective. Meanwhile, here are some reviews of his works that Bamboo wrote: Paranoia Agent, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers.

I didn't watch any Satoshi Kon last weekend. I was watching gay porn while my favorite director was dying.

Alright, Junjō Romantica might not be porn depending on your regional legal definition of pornography. It's more softcore than hardcore. And admittedly, it is not Shelf Worthy for all audiences. This is a Shelf Worthy release with a great box and every possible extra, including a color booklet. Remember how I gave the Dragonball Z Dragon Box a Shelf Worthy rating, even though I wasn't that into the show itself?

Very few yaoi manga get turned into anime series (considering the amount of yaoi out there), and the ones that I've seen in my admittedly little time watching yaoi have been extremely disappointing. To name names, I Shall Never Return is a decent cheesy manga series with an abysmal anime adaptation. Compared to such a shoddy, low budget OVA, Junjō Romantica is the Corvette of yaoi anime. Of course, it's not nearly as good as Gravitation, which has the added bonus of appealing pop songs.

Roughly half of the episodes follow Misaki and Akihiko's relationship. Misaki is a young college student and Akihiko is a best-selling yaoi light novel author, ten years older than Misaki. Their first sexual encounter is less than consensual and the most disturbing sex act in the entire set. Misaki ends up living in Akihiko's lavish apartment, doing the dishes, making dinner, and asking the questions a stereotypical Japanese wife asks when her husband comes home: "Which would you like first? Dinner? A bath? Or…me?"

The rest of the stories follow other couples in one-shot one-episode romances. This would have thrown me for a loop if I hadn't read so many yaoi anthologies. Without that experience, I would've been left frustrated, because why should I care about any non-recurring characters? I'm only interested in Misaki and Akihiko (and even then, just barely). The side romances are alternately amusing or alarming.

One episode featured a friendship between elementary school boys that had me on the edge of my seat, thinking "Oh please don't let this be shotacon!" In the end they exchanged a small kiss and one boy looked up the word "sex" in the dictionary. This weekend I learned from anime that "pure-heartedness" means one has never thought of sex; certainly if the character in question had to look up sex in the dictionary, he had a pure heart.

There is no dub. The adapted English script gets bonus points for using the word "schlepping." Each disc includes cultural notes at the end. It's been a while since I've read cultural notes that I couldn't guess the content of, but these were useful (after the explanation of honorifics, anyway). I learned about some Osaka landmarks I should hit up on my next visit to Japan.

Right Stuf/Nozomi has put their whole heart into this release, and if you're a yaoi fan, it belongs on your shelf. If you're just yaoi-curious, this is a not a bad place to start.[TOP]

Meanwhile, Casshern is based on a long franchise, and I don't think that Casshern Sins is a very good introduction to the show. Instead I recommend watching this opening to the 1973 Shinzō Ningen Casshan adaptation on Youtube, which is way more entertaining in 30 seconds than Casshern Sins was in almost five hours.

This show is so bleak! Bleak! Bleak! Bleak! It's bleak in both style and substance.

Last week there was some discussion as to why I labeled certain shows as “depressing.” In the case of Lain and Boogiepop Phantom, they both involve suicidal characters, which I find depressing. Casshern Sins is depressing as all get-out, but it doesn't leave you despairing for humanity like Grave of the Fireflies. Since Grave of the Fireflies is an anti-war film, it at least leaves you with constructive pathos.

Titular character Casshern is an amnesiac living in a stark, gray, post-apocalyptic wasteland. The only media I've ever consumed with amnesiac characters done well are The Guin Saga (novels and anime) and Memento (the film). So amnesia: strike one against Casshern.

There are very few humans left in the world, but a lot a robots are hanging around, waiting to die of “The Ruin,” which has the effect of rapidly rusting them to petrification. I cannot think of a single thing I'd rather do on a Saturday night than WATCH ROBOTS WAIT FOR DEATH. Strike two. I could listen to the weird sounds my antiquated 10" PowerBook G4's fan is making and have a nicer time.

All the robots Casshern encounters want to kill him and eat him. There are two reasons for this: 1. They believe that if they eat Casshern's body, even a small part of it, they'll live forever (which sounds oddly like Catholicism) and 2. They've heard Casshern killed Luna and started The Ruin, so all of this is his fault. Casshern can't remember anything, so he doesn't remember who Luna is and whether or not he killed her.

Unfortunately for Casshern, he's a great fighter. It's not clear if he's a human or a robot or what in Part One, but he has lightening reflexes and a Wolverine-esque healing factor. I said “unfortunately” because eventually, Casshern just starts telling the other robots to kill him. Oh, joy! A suicidal protagonist! Strike three!

Casshern's budget-saving all-gray backgrounds make Planet Namek look like a tropical paradise. The characters hide lip flap a lot, presumably to save money for the fight scenes. I can't really blame them, the old lip flap-hiding trick is used even in the best of anime. But coupled with the bleak gray backdrop, the show looks extra low budget.

The dub script gets a lot of leeway because of the lack of on-screen lip flap. Monica Rial puts in an alarmingly convincing performance as a busted-in-the-head 4-year-old recurring robot child Ringo. But even Funimation's talented dub cast could not save this show from sucking. There is a live action extra feature of the Japanese seiyuu cast in which Kenji Utsumi, the voice of Braiking Boss, is slightly amusing. Utsumi says he's been type-cast as a bad guy, and I find that impossibly cool and kinda sexy.

Speaking of Ringo, here are some other post-apocalyptic films with annoying child characters that you can find at your local library: Six String Samurai (better music than the movie deserves), Waterworld (an expensive failure), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (geek canon, but ridiculous). Why is that a trope?!

This is the sort of show that airs at 2 AM in Japan, and you watch it while falling asleep. In fact, you can sleep through 2/3rds of any given episode of Casshern and get the gist of it.[TOP]

You could also fall asleep to Brighter than the Dawning Blue and not miss a thing.

Someone in the forums claimed this got good right after I stopped watching it last time so I decided to check it out the end of Brighter than the Dawning Blue. There are some shows for which the "it gets good" claim is true. Lucky Star gets good after episode four. Fullmetal Alchemist (the original) gets really good at episode seven. Naruto gets good after episode 33 (good, that is, until it spirals into filler somewhere after episode 101).

Dawning Blue never gets good. It was never good in the first place. And it has one of the most irritating deus ex machina endings I've ever seen. Even if that ending was intended as a parody or a joke, I still found it offensively terrible. It's difficult to describe the ending without spoiling it entirely, but to put it in very vague terms, just as things seem to be wrapping up happily, a tragedy occurs and the credits start to roll over tearful faces. Suddenly, a third party arrives in an outlandish scene that was set up in an earlier episode which nevertheless seems like an gigantic cop out. The tragedy is averted, the credits stop, and we're given a new super-happy ending instead. To stop the credits and figuratively yell "Psych!" seems like a bad practical joke.

To be fair, there was a drastic change in the show at episode seven. A new suitor appears to claim Feena's hand in marriage. When Feena returns to the moon, Tatsuya is forced to come to terms with his feelings for her. Tatsuya realizes he likes Feena, and they go on a date, and then they decide to get married (without really saying the word "marriage"). I found the jump from "Oh my god, I do like her" to "and now we're aiming for marriage" rather abrupt. If you asked the happy couple, "So how long have you been together?" their answer would be "One. One date."

There is a very badly handled showdown with Wreath, the requisite little kid character in the non-harem harem cast. It turns out her body is being occupied by something like the ghost of a dead planet (no wait, that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). This scene in particular suffers from poor screenwriting. Wreath explains her actions and motivations in a long awkwardly handled monologue. In the subsequent unentertaining one sided fight, Tatsuya is totally defenseless against her energy blasts.

That fight scene was bad on the surface, but it took me a day or so to realize what's really wrong with this show. The real problem is that none of the main characters have flaws. Feena and Tatsuya are both very nice, relatively competent characters. There is nothing particularly unique or memorable about either one. Aren't characters supposed to have flaws according to Aristotle's Poetics (he calls it hamartia)? They're the sort of couple who are certainly nice, but you'd never want to go out to dinner with them because it would be intensely boring. Every supporting character has at least one unique trait, even if those traits were chosen from a shopping list of anime character traits, but for the love of god at least you'd have something to talk with them about.

There is no dub, and the only extra is a music video so slow and inane you could sleep through it soundly.[TOP]


If you like to consume your media while awake, I heard that the Max Headroom series got released on DVD last week. This NPR review of it does a pretty good job of explaining why Max Headroom was (is?) important, and what's missing from the set.

This week's collection is from John Casey, who also graced us with an adorable photo of his cat:

"Ello there! This is JC from Virginia, off to send you some of his DVD collection photos - plus my kitteh, Jack2!

That said, I unfortunately could not include everything, such as my movie DVD shelf, PC games, and manga - which are all boxed up with the rest of my comics anyways. Regardless, for a poor college student, I'm still fairly proud of my 5+ built collection. Hope you enjoy em!"

We need more adorable pictures of animals. That always makes people happy. Animals and anime.

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

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