Shelf Life
Breakfast of Champions

by Erin Finnegan,

The bouncy castle birthday I mentioned last week was a huge success! It was at Bounce U, a nation-wide chain, apparently. It was totally amazing, although they had clearly never hosted an all-adult birthday party before. The ice cream cake was surprisingly good for a package deal.

Watching Casshern Sins Part 2 after that much sugary excitement was a huge let-down.

I hate this show and almost nothing you can say will change my mind. My review of Part One upset the forums, although perhaps no more so than any other Perishable rating I've given. Surprisingly, Theron gave the series a B+.

The worst part about Casshern Sins has got to be the repetitive dialog. In Part One, about 80% of the dialog was characters reiterating the fact that Casshern killed Luna. The more they said it, the less I believed it, and sure enough, in Part Two Luna turns up alive. 80% of Luna's dialog consists of her complaining about the stench of death and/or promising to bring salvation to the dying robots gathering on her doorstep.

The second worst thing about Casshern Sins is that the creators assume the viewer will not be intelligent enough to figure out even the most blatant symbolism. It's not enough to have thousands of followers coming to Luna for salvation in order to imply that she is their savior. She has to actually say “I am your savior!” in case we couldn't put the clues together. In another scene, a pregnant woman sits in a field of flowers while two young children frolic. The blatant imagery is apparently not enough; the woman also says that she's kind of like the flowers – just to drive it through our thick skulls.

The world of Casshern is filled exclusively with fertile fields of colorful flowers and utterly desolate gray wasteland. Just in case you the viewer totally missed that this is symbolic of life and death over the first 23 episodes, Casshern and Luna describe it in clear terms in the last episode. It's as if the producers felt the viewers were either very young children or else adults suffering from severe mental impairments who need everything explained in a slow and repetitive speech.

I have never taken Quaaludes or heavy tranquilizers, but I assume that watching Casshern Sins is the equivalent experience. The pace plods along disgustingly slow, like walking through a field so muddy your shoes get sucked off your feet. (What? That's never happened to you?) Even though everything is explained very slowly and repetitively I still had questions at the end. (Was Ringo a robot or a human or what?) It's not bad enough that this show assumes I'm an idiot, it also made me feel like an idiot. I can't tell if I "got it" or not, or if there was ever anything to "get" in the first place.

In the particularly experimental episode 18, fightin' female sidekick Lyuze wanders into what looks like Harlem, it's implied she has sex with a man, and then kills him. This episode is very Aeon Flux (the series, not the crappy movie) insomuch as we can't tell when the events occurred or if it was only a dream or what. The city Lyuze visits was never in the series before and never comes up again. This episode is severely under-explained in bizarre contrast to the rest of the show, which is over-explained ad nauseum. I'd like it better if the whole series was like episode 18.

I've been trying to coin the term “The Sledgehammer School of Filmmaking” ever since I saw Bowling for Columbine. Any film or TV series like Casshern that hits you in the face with its theme belongs to the Sledgehammer School, and I just can't appreciate it. Don't get me wrong, I love experimental intellectual crap like Waking Life.

The only redeemable thing about Casshern Sins is Kenji Utsumi, the voice of Braiking Boss. Utsumi sounds amazing, and he's not in the show nearly enough. J. Paul Slavens can't match Utsumi in the dub.

The only extra in Part Two is a mini-concert of the band performing the opening theme.[TOP]

To cleanse my palette after Casshern I had to watch two things I liked.

My box sets of Gaogaigar arrived in the mail this week, so I decided to pick up where I left off last time. Coincidentally, there is a Media Blasters sale at Right Stuf until September 27th, making this review relevant.

Gaogaigar is a delight to watch. It looks like it was a fun show to work on in real life. In the show, it looks like the secret government committee in charge of Gaogaigar would be super fun to work for. The only other anime I can think of with that kind of office “synergy” is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but Section Nine is all dark and serious. Gaogaigar's enemies may cause a lot of property damage, but they don't feel any more threatening than Team Rocket.

This time around I started wondering about the office positions of the characters in mission control. The huge, muscular Kôtarô Taiga approves everything as some sort of executive officer, but the even more muscular Geki Hyuuma's job responsibilities are harder to figure out. Geki poses enthusiastically and shouts between Gaogaigar's moves during each battle, but I can't tell what he's contributing to the team. He seems to break office rules and regulations. Funnily enough, the dress code isn't on his list of infractions. Green Mohawks are apparently allowed in this government office.

In one particularly memorable Geki moment, the GGG team is before a government review board. Geki looks horribly bored by the proceedings, and when the team is called away on a mission, Geki flexes his muscles with delight, causing his shirt to explode off. It's very Legend of Koizumi. Dan Green does a fine job of bringing Geki's manliness to the dub.

I love the breathless pace of this show. Periodically, important exposition is doled out in the brief bit before the opening credits. It's as if the show itself is so excited to bring you the action scenes that there just isn't time to bore you with back story so they have to tell you really fast all at once. It's basically the opposite of Casshern.

Remember that morph animation effect that came out in 1998 or so? (I made this circa 1997.) Gaogaigar uses it a lot. The villains morph out of the walls. The head bad guy speaks with a morphing mouth movement. It's a tad cheesy by today's standards, but it looks so charming in conjunction with the cell animation. The whole series is just so freaking charming.

I want to watch Gaogaigar in my pajamas on a Saturday morning and eat sugary cereal. Fortunately, I can watch it on a Saturday night drinking beer¹ and still feel as if I'm nine years old on a Saturday morning. I don't even think kids can watch cartoons on Saturday morning any more.[TOP]

I struggled with the third title to watch this week. I'm still getting used to my new work schedule. Next week I promise I'll watch something newer, but this week you'll have to make due with an old classic that I believe is worth your attention.

Tai Seng put out the Champion Joe movie on DVD in America a couple years ago, and you can still pick it up cheaply or find it for rent. Although all the information on this DVD claims it's dubbed in English, I swear the disc I rented didn't have a dub. There were no extras besides a theatrical trailer.

The Ashita No Joe manga was a smash hit in Japan, and it's still famous today. Everyone knows about Joe over there. It's a crying shame we haven't had more Joe in America!

This movie cuts together footage from the 79 episode Ashita No Joe TV series (from 1970) into an abridged version of the story. Even without the extra length, the story holds together nicely and it is totally amazing.

Our fighting protagonist Joe Yabuki is no goody two shoes. Teenage Joe lives in a ghetto defending his roving gang of young, petty thief orphan followers from tough guys and yakuza. Joe's life changes when he meets a washed up, disbarred, alcoholic former boxing coach in the gutter. Danpei wants to train Joe to box, although Joe isn't interested at first.

Before Joe can even join a gym like the comparatively rich (but still working class) Ippo from Hajime no Ippo, he runs on the wrong side of the law and ends up in a prison-like juvenile hall. Joe doesn't take well to being bullied and ends up beating the shit out of his fellow inmates. This lands him a transfer to some kind of super juvenile hall, like Prison Prison.

For some reason, the higher security prison has a collective farm, where the delinquents are allowed to use pitchforks without supervision (seems safe enough). They tend pigs, which leads to inevitable manure hazing for the new guys, including Joe. This film had 100% more pig punching than I was expecting. (I promise it's not animal abuse, it was in self defense.)

Eventually Joe does get to box professionally, but it is a long and hard road to facing off against his first rival in a proper ring, starting from his humble beginnings beating prisoners and punching pigs.

The rich colors and heavy, stylized lines bring to life the determination and fiery spirit of the plot. The character designs are from another era entirely. The only time you ever see anime in this style is in parody in shows like Lucky Star or Sgt. Frog when they try to convey a manly spirit and a burning passion.

In fact, I wanted to watch Ashita No Joe because I've been on a mission to watch some of every title parodied in the original Japanese opening to Oh! Super Milk-Chan. So far, I've sampled everything except Devil Man. I think it's important to be familiar with the classics. It's good to know your roots… even when those roots extend back to a country you've never lived in during a time before you were born.[TOP]

¹ I mean drinking one beer. And that beer is certainly not PBR. I would never do my job intoxicated, nor would I dishonor anime by drinking cheap, crappy alcohol in front of it.

This week's shelves are from Carolyn:

"I've been collecting for about 8 years or so now and it seems like I get something to outdate my pictures as soon as I take them! I love hitting up used book and DVD stores to add a lot to my collection at an affordable price, I'm always on the lookout for bargains and sometimes I'll trade with people too. I'm not big on decor like wallscrolls or figurines, I think the loads and loads of anime and manga speak for themselves. Also I find I have no room for any plushies, I have a hard enough time finding a good place for Mechazawa!

My favorite series of all time is Banana Fish, which is why it's on the top shelf in the front (with its artbook that I imported specially from Japan). I'm a bit short on space so almost all of my shelves are double deep with anime and manga (don't worry, I didn't leave those guys out in my pictures!). I arrange my manga series with my favorite series on the front row, other than that I have no system of organization known to man and I like it that way (except for the one shelf that I wanted to have all blue spines on, the only one of those series deserving of front row was Please Save My Earth, my third favorite manga series, Maison Ikkoku is the second). I tend to re-read my manga more than I rewatch my anime, so I put more care into maintaining it. I always say it's about quality not quantity and if I'm not happy with something to get rid of it, it's a personal collection after all, not a museum, although I do have some rather rare anime and manga that might be museum worthy. I have around 470 manga (I think) and I love having all different genres of anime and manga at my disposal and I don't think I'll ever stick with just seinen or just shojo.

On a few of my anime series (Cromartie High School, Key the Metal Idol, Patlabor 1+2 movies, Speed Grapher, Brigadoon, and Master Keaton), I was running out of room so I got some blank multi-case DVDs to move them into so those are actually full sets. I also have the rest of the Club 9 manga via Super Manga Blast because they never printed them into manga format.

My cat's name is Butters, she's very cute, loving, playful and soft! And not quite as fat as she looks in her picture."

Fantastic collection! And an utterly adorable cat.

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

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