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Shelf Life
Car Talk

by Erin Finnegan,

Happy Holidays and stuff, Shelf Life readers! There will be no Shelf Life on the 27th, I'm taking Christmas off this year! In fact, I'm flying to Tokyo on Christmas Day, so it would be difficult to turn in the column that weekend anyway. Bamboo will be covering for me on January 3rd while I recover from Comiket. This trip should be totally epic, as I'm going with Clarissa from Anime World Order, some guy who writes anime reviews for Giant Robot magazine, and another Otaku USA writer (oh, and also my husband).

With my schedule loosening up a little lately, I was finally able to marathon Fist of the North Star, which I've been threatening to do for over a month. Regan Strongblood from that eighties anime podcast would be proud.

Did kids in Japan watch this show in 1984 (or read the manga in Weekly Shonen Jump)? Were parents back then too busy with their boom economy lifelong employment jobs to monitor hyper-violent cartoons? The Toei website seems to say it aired at 7pm. Regardless, I love 80's anime, (as my Dirty Pair review revealed) so this show had me from, "you are already dead."

So the story goes, in 199X a nuclear apocalypse has transformed earth into a desert landscape where gangs of muscular neon-mohawked marauders torture the innocent and steal food from weak people with no mohawks and normal physiques. Is there no salvation from this living hell?

Kenshiro is the sole heir to a deadly martial arts form involving pressure points, and as such his title is "Fist of the North Star." His rival for the first dozen episodes is the fist of the South Star, Shin, who beat the crap out of Kenshiro and stole his girlfriend Yulia (shouldn't that be Julia?). Now Kenshiro wanders the desert, looking for revenge. Along the way, he explodes a few heads.

Let me be perfectly clear when I say that Kenshiro is a nice guy. The dudes whose heads he bursts open all have it coming; they kick puppies, torture children, force brothers to kill each other and make parents shoot arrows (William Tell style) at their own children's heads. Meanwhile, Kenshiro saves children, helps old ladies cross the street (and picks up their groceries), and I'm sure he'd never kick (or eat) a puppy. Kenshiro often gives the bad guys the option to escape, and strangely, none of them ever seem to run for it, even after watching their comrades die contorted, grisly deaths.

Like Golgo 13 (or Brock Samson), Kenshiro is a man with big eyebrows (my type!), broad shoulders and few words. He does the just thing in every situation, and he can even cure the blind. Yes, you read that right, he can cure blind people with his martial arts pressure points. He can also calm hysterical women, stun guards, and give people short-term amnesia with a single touch. He's basically a desert-wandering messiah.

After the first story arc, the revenge plot fizzles out and Kenshiro starts getting challenges from some other would-be heirs to the North Star fist. He even meets a new lady who leads her tribe wielding two bladed yo-yos (my kind of gal!). The plot with Shin was an action movie cliché anyway, so it's refreshing to get away from it, even if the four new villains feel contrived and tacked on to extend the series.

I wonder if Lin, the annoying little girl following Kenshiro around, began the trope of annoying children following the hero in the post apocalypse. This trend has echoed down the decades in everything from Six String Samurai to the recent Casshern Sins. In the better episodes, Lin is mercifully less involved.

The dub adds some suitable cursing. Alexis Lang is very respectable as Kenshiro. Unfortunately, the original music is missing from the dub track and replaced by non-intrusive ambient techno. Fortunately, the original music is included on the Japanese track, so at least you get a choice. The techno beats give the weird feeling the show is being projected on a wall at some club in the late 1990s.

The first disc includes an art gallery (stills from the show) and the original theatrical trailer for the film (good times). With so many episodes and a dub in the box, this is worthwhile if you love the 80's, manly men, hyper-violence, or any two out of three (I like all that stuff).[TOP]

Initial D is not nearly violent or masculine enough for me, especially not the first season.

The last time Initial D was on Shelf Life, Bamboo wrote about her deep love of the show, and also Eurobeat. Funimation has finally re-released Part One, with their dub cast, minus the DJ Milky soundtrack.

I've reviewed one previous Initial D set and one movie, touching on the strange bad character design and my dislike of cars. I'm still not interested in cars. Season one looks so old that the character designs reminded me of the poorly aging Hana Yori Dango anime, where everyone has weird lines on their cheeks. Maybe it's a late 1990's thing, since HYD ran from '96-'97 and First Stage began in 1998.

Initial D season one is legendary for bad CG, and it certainly lives up to legend. OK, so it's not as bad as the CG in the Golgo 13 movie, or The Last Starfighter, but it is quite bad. I'm an oldschool Doctor Who fan, so I can let this sort of thing slide.

Aesthetics aside, the real trouble with this show is that I can't identify with Takumi at all. Nerds are nerds because they are overly passionate about their hobbies (hobbies not accepted by society as cool, like sports). Takumi has never been passionate about anything in his life. His goofball best friend Itsuki has a super-nerdy love of cars. Meanwhile, Takumi has been forced to drive to help out with his dad's tofu shop since he was in junior high, so he only thinks of cars as work and driving as a chore. Itsuki turns Takumi on to street racing, and when Takumi is finally forced to drive “for fun” he discovers he has a talent for it and grows to like it.

I identify with Itsuki's nerdy passion (although not for cars), but he gets the short end of the stick in the series. Takumi is cool because he doesn't care. Itsuki is uncool because he cares too much. He's even less cool because he doesn't have the driving skills or the sweet car to back up his big mouth.

I don't like Takumi because he's so passive. A girl just asks him out, he doesn't even have to do anything. Takumi just gets a car handed to him, and it turns out that it happens to be the “Eight-six” all his friends at the gas station are lusting after. (Maybe I'm just jealous of Takumi, since I didn't get a car handed to me. I had to work for it and argue with my parents for years.) You could say Takumi is just "drifting through life" when he discovers he's the star driver of the mountain.

I do like that the show is careful to point out that Takumi isn't just talented, he's also had hundreds of hours of practice every single day for years. I also like Takumi's dad as a character. He knows his son very well and looks out for his safety without being preachy about it. He tunes the car just when Takumi needs it without telling him much about it. He lets Takumi stay out all night without a curfew, as long as the tofu gets delivered on time. He's basically the coolest dad ever.

The dub is not appreciably different from Funimation's previous work on this series (see my links to my previous reviews above). I'm sure you've already picked up the first season of Initial D if you like the show. [TOP]

I may be lukewarm about Initial D, but watching Sekirei is my personal equivalent of taking a shower when the hot water heater breaks.

Theron Martin said in this ANNCast episode that he tries to grade shows based on their category, like if something is the best he's seen “in that category” he gives it an A (he was talking about Koi Kaze at the time). Sekirei is certainly a show of exceptional quality in its niche category. It has great animation, a very good dub, and some well-done fight scenes. It even has some interesting plot twists.

Based on the cover, I was bracing myself for a Perishable title. Generally I don't like bullet breasts (Iron Wok Jan manga notwithstanding). I rolled my eyes a lot at the plot, which combines a generic ero-com harem story with a generic, Pokemon-like fighting story. As the plot goes, the sekirei are beautiful girls, discovered deep in a mountain cave inside an alien spaceship (?) in suspended animation. They were activated by an evil dude calling himself “The Game Master” who forces them to fight. Our protagonist, a college exam flunky named Minato, “collects” sekirei fighters by kissing them, which creates some kind of bond and awakens their fighting powers.

“I'm a fist type Sekirei!” the first ditzy sekirei, Musubi, shouts several times during the series. Is this show based on a collectible trading card game? There are 108 sekireis, and they all have numbers! God, I hate TCGs. Minato gets kicked out of his apartment for having a girl over, and he and Musubi are left briefly homeless before being taken in by a kind landlady in a harem-happy house filled with--guess what--more sekireis!

Fortunately the plot takes a turn for the unexpected. After all of the rules of the game are revealed, some of the characters start to rebel against the game itself. That is damnably interesting.

This being a "checklist" show, obviously there is a little sister character. Kusano looks about four or five years old, and calls Minato “big brother”. Like all of the harem, she insists that she is Minato's future wife. Fortunately, I didn't get too offended by Kusano, because most of her scenes are played for comedy. For example, in one scene, another “wife” encourages Minato to look at her breasts (as in, if you're going to ogle, at least ogle me). Kusano pipes up and says “Or me!” as she sticks out her flat chest in her school uniform swimsuit. (She hatched from an egg-thing, so she doesn't even go to school… but anyway…) Her moment is accompanied by a color card background, a comic music queue, and an SD moment. I prefer self-parody to the blatant underage humping in Omamori Himari. Kusano also gets her own so-cute-you'll-puke one episode OVA.

Did I mention this show has both “T” and “A”? You get to see nipples (gasp!) as well as plenty of panty shots. The camel toe screen time is not as frequent as Strike Witches, thankfully. (Maybe I'm being worn down by this kind of show…)

The Funimation dub is done very well. Alexis Tipton is super cute as Musubi. There are plenty of script changes to make the dub slightly more funny (or more coherent) while keeping to the spirit of the sub script. Tsukiumi speaks in an old timey way, so in the dub Lydia Mackay has plenty of ridiculous-yet-memorable lines like “Bringeth it on!"[TOP]

Bringeth it on indeed, they also sent me Girls Bravo in re-release. This will be the best Christmas ever. Save me, Kenshiro.

This week's shelves are from Jason:

"Hello. My name is Jason (I post on occasion on the ANN forums as "Deadwing"). I've been collecting anime and manga since 1999, though my interest in anime and manga dates back a couple of years ealier when I discovered it via the Sci-Fi channel's "Saturday Anime" block. The first anime I bought was VHS copies of the first three DBZ movies, which I have stored away somewhere. I even have the first four episodes of DBZ in one of those big clamshell cases VHS casettes sometimes came in.

Most of my DVD collection you see here was bought between 2000 and 2005, hence the relative modesty of the collection despite its age. The first anime DVD I bought was Tenchi Forever. Collecting DVDs started off relatively slow for me, but really kicked in gear beginning in 2002. I have sold several titles (regretfully, as some have gone out of print) and passed over several more because I either rented them or saw them regularly on TV. For several years after 2005, I cut back heavily on anime purchases since money started getting really tight. However, since last year I've slowly but surely started building up my collection again, buying newer series as well as older series I never got around to, and completing some unfinished series.

I started collecting manga back in 2001, my first series being No Need for Tenchi and Love Hina. Since manga is much cheaper than anime, I've been far more able to stay recent with what I read, though are some series I've neglected over the years.

As you can see, I don't really have a lot of swag. Besides the two wallscrolls, I have some old t-shirts and that's it. I believe the best way to support the R1 anime & manga market is to buy the DVDs and manga volumes instead of splurging on miscellaneous merchandise.

Well, that's enough rambling from me. Enjoy the pictures. I'll probably send more in about another year or two once I've grown my collection enough to warrant doing so.

P.S.: Do you like the box sets art-side out or DVD-side out?"

Ooh, good question, Jason! The eternal debate of Box Art vs. Easy Access. What do you think, readers?

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

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