Shelf Life
Cat's Cradle Robber

by Erin Finnegan,

Shelf Worthy
None this week
Rental Shelf
Nnoe this week
Kiba ep. 1-6
Stream Worthy
Shiki ep. 1-11
Omamori Himari ep. 1-12
I'm taking next week off from Shelf Life to go to New York Anime Festival/Comic Con – but never fear! Bamboo is writing the column next week to cover for me.

If you're going to the convention, you might be able to see me there. I'm on three panels: “Unusual Manga Genres” will be on Saturday from 8:45 – 9:45 pm, the ANN panel will be Sunday from 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm, and “Culinary Manga” is right after that from 1:45 – 2:45 pm. (Be sure to check the schedule at the con and the signs in front of the panel rooms.)

I'm giving stuff away at my panels – but not Omamori Himari DVDs, because I watched it streaming.

Oh, Omamori Himari! At least your first nine episodes had diegetic panty flashes. In film terms, “diegetic” music is music playing within the movie, like if a character turns on a radio. Soundtracks are “non-diegetic,” because it's music that isn't playing within the world of the film. I think the panty flashes in Kiki's Delivery Service are diegetic because they occur naturally and believably, as opposed to the special camera up-skirt angles invented in Najica Blitz Tactics. Omamori Himari falls somewhere between those two extremes. The panty shots try to be slightly believable, at least at first (a character falls and her skirt flips up, etc.). In this scene it was hot out (not work safe).

Yuto, an every-boy orphan teenager with a cat allergy is surprised when a sexy demon cat girl named Himari turns up claiming to be his bodyguard. Yuto's childhood friend Rinko is upset by this development, not least by the fact that Himari is much more *cough* developed than Rinko. Rinko has more opportunities to be upset as new sexy girls are added to the show at an average of one per episode. Most of the girls end up living at Yuto's house in a traditional anime harem arrangement.

Readers following this column will instantly know that Shizuku was my least favorite character. Shizuku, a water demon member of Yuto's harem, has with a pre-pubescent body and is involved in many erotic scenes. For example, Shizuku admits that the humping she does in this scene (not work safe) to heal Yuto is totally unnecessary. As a water demon, Shizuku often appears in a wet T-shirt. Good lord, what's the point of a wet T-shirt contest starring an elementary school student?

In scenes too hot for TV, a white cloudy blur effect blocks out the naughty bits. I'm not sure if this effect was added for Japanese television or by Crunchyroll. Please be aware that some scenes starring Shizuku (or later, Tama) may not be legal in your area (like Australia).

Underage characters aside, you could do worse than Omamori Himari. The animation quality is not that bad. The character designs are solid, except for Yuto, who looks utterly generic. Of course, Yuto is meant to play a generic archetype because this is just that sort of show. I thought Daisuke Hirakawa sounded oddly nasally as Yuto.

If there is a deeper theme to this show (there isn't), I'm going to throw out there that I think it's about impotence. Yuta has inherited magic powers that are supposed to manifest, but he can't quite get the magic going, not even when his roommates are stripping naked and rubbing against him.

I usually hate demon fighting and harems and erotic comedies. This is the opposite of the sort of show I like. I only watched this because it aired in 2010 and I hadn't seen it yet. I can't tell if this very typical harem otaku database show holds up versus other similar shows. It certainly has maids, vampire-like girls, cat girls, a sexy Zashiki-warashi (house spirit), a sexy-no-jutsu nine tailed fox, striped panties and three-quarters socks if you're into those things. In general I am in favor of the sexy-no-jutsu form of various Japanese traditional supernatural creatures like the Zashiki-warashi. How about a sexy umbrella yokai?

The only unique element to this show may be Yuta's cat allergy. When Himari's cat ears and tail pop out, Yuta displays believable allergic symptoms. Other than that, I hated this show and actively cheered for the characters' deaths. At the end when Himari starts going berserk, I was hoping for an Old Yeller ending.[TOP]

Maybe the theme of this week's Shelf Life is that “you could do worse”.

You could do worse than Shiki. I reviewed episode one in my own weird equivalent of the Summer 2010 Preview guide. It seemed interesting enough.

In retrospect, my review was a bit off. It's fairly obvious that the “mysterious illness” from the first few episodes is actually vampires. I was hoping for the show to do something new with the supernatural, but Shiki's vampires prove to be fairly traditional (so far).

Some extra pale strangers move into a gaudy European-style castle built on a hill overlooking the small town of Sotoba. The new family in town only greets their new neighbors at night. The town's one goth-loli girl dies a mysterious death with two puncture wounds and signs of blood loss. Even Watson could solve this case.

The show plays up the ensemble cast of townspeople, but much screen time is devoted to Natsuno, a high school kid, and Toshio, the town's doctor. It takes Natsuno and Toshio nine episodes to face the fact that they are dealing with vampires. Meanwhile, Seishin, a Buddhist monk and a novelist, fails to realize the significance (or the danger) of his nightly encounters with a creepy pale little girl in an abandoned church.

The premise is kind of cool. Modern science and medical practices don't allow Toshio to draw a supernatural conclusion for a long time. That's cool, unless you've seen a single season of The X-Files, in which case, you might be sick of that premise already. (Although thinking of Toshio as Scully and Natsuno as Mulder may be amusing if you're a fujoshi.)

After the first ten episodes, I just wanted to watch the movie The Lost Boys. It's a really good “what if vampires were real in the modern day” movie, and it's only 93 minutes long. I started watching Shiki this week because I thought it was almost over. Turns out it's a 22 episode show.

Shiki has bizarre character designs. Many of the characters have hair that is normal for anime, but some, like Ritsuko the nurse, have truly gravity defying dos that take you out of the viewing experience momentarily.

One character was so annoying that I started hoping he would be killed by vampires. With only 1300 citizens in Sotoba, the odds were in my favor. In fact, the strength of Shiki is that the town is so small and the vampires bites so fatal that a small vampires infestation threatens to wipe the entire place off the map. Even non-victims are starting to move away.

I'm interested in seeing where this is going, but not so interested that I'd move Shiki above Rental Shelf if it were a bare bones DVD release. (Remember my Streamworthy to Shelf Worthy chart?) I guess I'll withhold final judgment until I see the ending. I suspect the second half will be a war against said vampires, which could be very cool.[TOP]

Like I said, you could do worse than Shiki. For example, you could be watching Kiba.

Have you ever walked into a semi-ghetto video rental shop where everything except the new releases are only $1 to rent, but when you start looking around you realize that something that came out last year is still on the “New Releases” shelf? I swear that just happened to me (online, anyway). I rented Kiba because I thought it was newer than 2009! Arg!

Bamboo gave it a Perishable, too. When I started this column, everyone said how different my taste was from hers, but I remember agreeing with Bamboo's ratings whenever I read Shelf Life. This is definitely one of those times.

The first episode of Kiba takes place in a dystopic futuristic cityscape. Then the protagonist, Zed, who undoubtedly is destined for something or other, is transported to the magical land of Shard Casters where everyone fights with monsters astoundingly similar to those in Yu-Gi-Oh!.

It comes as no surprise that Kiba is based on a trading card game and in part owned by Upper Deck. Don't get me wrong, I have a soft spot in my heart for Yu-Gi-Oh!. (I even saw the first movie in the theater.) I kept shouting for Blue Eyes White Dragon while Shard Casters were casting. Kiba's monsters don't seem half as inventively designed as those in Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Kiba is awful. Even Omamori Himari was made with some kind of heart behind it, but Kiba is pure, black-hearted commercialism. Nothing about the character design or writing or animation of the show seems to have any love behind it at all. I know this is hard to explain, let alone quantify, but anime is kind of like food. You can tell when a chef put some love into a dish. You can tell when animators put blood, sweat and tears into their work.

The pacing in the first six episodes is totally screwed up. Zed gets involved with a plot in the fantasy kingdom, then enters a dueling tournament which is abruptly interrupted to follow his friend Noah's story. Noah was also transported to the fantasy world, but in another location.

Ever see the 8th episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Wesley steps on some flowers in a garden and faces the death penalty on a supposedly utopian world? Noah's story arc is exactly like that, which is to say it is annoying and preachy for all the same reasons.

The dub is not memorable (which means it was neither remarkably good nor bad). Charles Campbell turns in an amusing performance as Zico, the old man (who shares a name with that coconut water I've been seeing everywhere lately).

What gets me is that all seven discs of Kiba arrived in the mail shortly after the first disc, which either means that I put it way too high in my rental queue or, more likely, nobody else is renting this. I am sending them back immediately.[TOP]

I just got a ton of screeners in the mail, so on October 18th you can look forward to reading about Corpse Princess.

This week's shelves are from mglittlerobin:

"Here's a pic of my small but awesome collection. I started buying two years ago and haven't stopped yet, There's a few more sets I still want to buy and I'm still earning money for it, but these are all my favorites and I love my collection to pieces. I'm kind of a sucker for old Geneon releases. All these animes have a special meaning to me and that's why I bought them. It's not much but it's something."

I love these small collections. They're small, but they have a lot of heart.

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

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