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Shelf Life
Corpse Bride

by Erin Finnegan,

This column marks the one year anniversary of my takeover of Shelf Life. It's been one heck of a year! Shelf Life is more of a lifestyle choice than a column. Back in the day (ok, it was 2005), Noah and I used to marathon anime series when our roommates went away on three day weekends. I thought those weekends represented what is best in life, but now that I'm marathoning anime series every weekend, for a job, some of the fun has worn off. But, far from making me less of a fan, I think Shelf Life has made me more of an anime fan than ever. Now I recognize costumes at conventions like nobody's business.

I've also grown a lot as a writer. (I'm embarrassed of that first column now!) Being absolutely forced to do something every week and given a mountain of feedback has (hopefully) made me improve rapidly. I'm grateful to have had this opportunity to sharpen my skills.

And I repeated that to myself all weekend while I marathoned My Bride is a Mermaid Part 2.

Here's my review of Part 1.

I maintain that this show is a rental, but if you rent the first disc and like it, you might as well buy the entire series because, by George, at least it's consistent. I liked the second half more than the first half, but I'm sure it's because I knew what to expect. With the bar of my expectations lowered, I was able to enjoy this even without a noticeable increase in quality. It's just like when I watched Black Sheep in 1996; my expectation bar had been set low by Tommy Boy (1995).

The character introductions that made up the cringe-worthy part one of this series were thankfully absent from part two. After the large ensemble cast has completely assembled, situations and jokes bounce around with surprisingly competent comedy writing.

OK, well, one new character gets introduced in part two. Akeno is sent from the Mermaid world to give Sun an exam to see if she's fit to stay in the human world. Akeno is a bureaucrat and a well-endowed swordswoman. She's instantly popular with the boys, who launch into a loyalty/popularity war. It's fun to see Sun freak out in these episodes, since normally she's mild-mannered and can be excessively nice to the point of being boring, like Marge Simpson (is Marge anyone's favorite character?).

Some of supporting cast definitely deserves a tip of the hat; Masa is a hilarious merman/thug/math teacher with an equally hilarious dub performance by Christopher R. Sabat. Masa's lesson plans always involve yakuza mathematics, which is comedy gold. Much fun is had with protagonist Nagasumi's adoration of Masa; it's a running gag yaoi parody that Nagasumi looks at Masa with sparkles in his eyes. Sabat's dub performance is an accurate(ish) Samuel L. Jackson impersonation, which is a lot of fun.

Shark Fujishiro, as his name implies, is a shark in human form, and he gets some great gags in part two. Bryan Massey's dub performance of this human shark is just about perfect.

The plots of part two are standard anime fare. Someone gets a disease everyone thinks is fatal (like in Kimagure Orange Road), there's a school trip to Kyoto, Lunar's dad plays gal games to understand her and ends up cross-dressing (OK, maybe that's not normal), Nagasumi gets a love letter and the whole school is obsessed with it, and the Mer-people are afraid of cats. A two-part episode wraps things up over an adventure where the stakes are slightly higher than normal.

This wasn't a bad show by any means, but it doesn't lend itself to re-watching like Ninja Nonsense or School Rumble. But, like I said, it's consistent, unlike some other shows…[TOP]

Corpse Princess is a crazily uneven show, but there's an actual plot, and it's from Gainax, so it just might be worth your time.

Ouri is an orphan with a mysterious past living in a orphanage run by a Buddhist monk in his twenties (or thirties?) named Keisei, whom Ouri calls his "older brother". Turns out Keisei is part of a weird sect that contracts living corpses to kill other living corpses. The corpse-killers are called princesses, the living corpses are shikabane, thus we have the show's Japanese title, Shikabane Hime. One day Ouri meets Keisei's contracted princess, Makina. When they fight the corpse-monsters, Keisei heals Makina by taking on her wounds. (It'd romantic like Loveless, except it's straight.)

This is a dark show, and the color palette reflects it. A lot of scenes take place at night. It's a big contrast to the bright rainbows of Gurren Lagann. Thematically, there is a lot of dwelling on death and the regrets that keep souls tied to earth. Ouri is followed around by an unearthly talking cat who (almost) no one else can see that keeps asking him why he's so obsessed with death. Why is he drawn to Makina? The theme-questioning cat alone makes this a more interesting show than most.

There are a lot of Buddhist politics and stuff about cults and it's all pretty serious, but not too serious – and did I mention butts? Because Makina wears a school uniform, and her skirt is regularly shredded down to threads in battles (she wields two machine guns). Another character, Riko, inexplicably provides “T” to Makina's “A”. Basically, in any given dead-serious scene you'll get some booty. It might be more distracting if I hadn't watched Strike Witches first. Compared with Highschool of the Dead, Corpse Princess seems both restrained and reasonable, which is something I couldn't have said three years ago.

The dark monster-monster-of-the-week plots and larger Buddhist conspiracy made me think of this show as an American-ish prime time cable drama. But then, at episode five, a new character with otaku appeal transfers into Ouri's class… I want to be careful about spoilers here because the ending credit sequence radically changes starting with that episode. A whole host of new characters are introduced at that point and it just made me think: "Merchandising! That's where the real money from the movie is made!"

Nevertheless, by disc two every episode ends with a mini-cliffhanger. Bamboo mentioned last week that element of wanting to know what happens next, and Corpse Princess has definitely has that going on.

But like I said, the animation is… uneven. Serious fight scenes are given a lot of detail, but the comedic moments are drawn in spastic limited animation in a super-simplified style. It's even more jarring than the “chibi” moments in Fullmetal Alchemist. Episode thirteen is a wholly unnecessary flashback show that defines the terms and recaps the plot so far. Corpse Princess already has excessive expository dialog in the first 12 episodes. Episode 13 is clearly a money-saver. I just hope Gainax didn't run out of money on this show like they did on Kare Kano.

To put it in RPG terms, this show has been “min-maxed”. The highs are high, and the lows are mighty low. Nevertheless, this is Shelf Worthy since it's one of those shows that makes me glad I'm writing Shelf Life. Given the title (which I confused with Murder Princess) and the premise I would've avoided this show if I weren't writing this column.

The dub is impressive. Luci Christian does a great job as Makina with her serious gravelly deep voice. J. Michael Tatum makes a good Keisei, but Keiji Fujiwara gets more of a range out of Keisei's comedic and serious moments. Aaron Dismuke's voice sounds like Ouri in real life if the episode 12 commentary is any indication. I don't always watch American voice actor commentaries all the way through, but this one was funny and even introduces an “episode 12 drinking game.”

I'm not going to go out and recommend Corpse Princess to all my friends, just all my anime fan friends (who are over 18).[TOP]

Here's my review of episodes 1-12. Sorry about the sporadic disc review, I've been renting Eyeshield through the mail. I gave a Shelf Worthy to the first part of this set, but the second half falters a bit (insert your own joke about fumbling here). Rest assured the set on the whole is still Shelf Worthy, but disc two is not as good as disc one.

Mamori is drawn off model throughout this disc. She's not important to this particular arc, but is that any excuse to draw her so badly that she looks like someone else entirely? She's not even consistent from one scene to the next within a single episode.

A few unimportant non-football game episodes suffer from Initial D syndrome. When characters aren't in a race in Initial D they look even uglier than normal; likewise in Eyeshield 21, any episode without a game is clearly farmed out to an inferior animation studio.

While writing this column, I hit upon the idea that a series is only as strong as its most powerful villain. In this set of episodes, the main rival is Rui Habashira, a tough-playing yakuza-like chameleon-looking football player with unusually long arms. He's a somewhat menacing opponent, but after watching the game against the White Knights, Rui seems like a joke. Even our protagonist, Sena, says that Rui is no match for his White Knights rival Shin. That is weak sauce!

The team recruits Monta, a baseball fanatic who is an expert catcher as their wide receiver. He looks like a monkey, just like the henchman Hideyoshi in Mermaid (reviewed above). It takes Sena far too long to figure out he should recruit Monta for the team. In other words, I got bored.

As for the gameplay, I'd like to reiterate that I don't know that much about football, but even I know holding is illegal. There are a ton of fouls in this show, and I'm never sure if the rules are different in American football as it's played in Japan or if it's just that these kids are playing without any referees. Particularly in this arc against the Zokugaku Chameleons, a lot of flags should be thrown on those plays. (Of course, the high caliber weapons Hiruma uses to intimidate the rest of his team are probably illegal in Japan.)

There is a small side story about a little kid in a hospital who loves football that is just about the most hackneyed cliché sports storyline ever. If I were re-watching this show I'd skip this disc. There isn't even a dub or any extras.

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to part two of Eyeshield 21. They haven't even introduced any cheerleaders yet! Hopefully some of the games against teams other than the White Knights will hold up. [TOP]

I didn't see any Eyeshield or Corpse Princess cosplayers at New York Comic Con/Anime Festival, but it was fun - although ridiculously crowded. Friday during Pro-only hours was the best time to see the show. I had a decent turnout for my panels (thank you!), but the best turnout was at the ANN panel.

Next up is MangaNext, where I'm an industry guest. Does it count as cosplay if you wear your Halloween costume?

This week's shelves are from Jenn, who hails from beautiful Colorado.

"I don't really know what to say,though I do believe my collection speaks for its self on how much I love Anime and Manga. Lets see I Have been collecting Manga and anime for about 9 years now..

I love to read more than watch T.V. ,so I have more Manga than Anime.I have 3 bookcases that all have mangas that are double deep with some manga still on the floor because I am running out of room for them all. I am afraid to keep stacking more books on top of the others because I have started to notice that some of my shelves are bending.So one day I expect a shelf to just give up the fight of holding my manga and just come crashing down. When I last counted all of my manga I had 996 and that's not counting magazines,art books or novels.So I could have over 1000 by now.

Also not all of my anime is pictured but those are mostly old VHS tapes that consist of Tenchi Muyo!,Masion ikkoku,Card Captor Sakura,DBZ ,Esclaflowne,Tokyo Babylon , Sailor Moon and some others that I can't remember. I also have a hole bunch of figures from DBZ in a box that is in my closet."

Love it! Super cute plushes, too!

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

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