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Shelf Life
Edo Eights and Heartbreak

by Erin Finnegan,

Oh man, what a great week! I watched both the 2010 French-English co-production The Illusionist and Evangelion 2.0 and both of them were great. I suppose you couldn't find two more different 2D animated films, but both are surprisingly uplifting films about sad people that are gorgeously well animated, starring fascinating characters. I highly recommend them both.

I also watched a bunch of anime for Shelf Life, starting with Trigun.

Remember Trigun? Actually, maybe you don't. Although 50% of the cosplayers at Otakon 2002 were dressed as Trigun characters, that was nine years ago already! If you've only gotten into anime in the past five years, you probably couldn't have watched Trigun reruns a million times on Cartoon Network.

It's hard to get over first impressions, and I could never get over my first impression of Vash the Stampede. I've never liked Vash, mostly because of his over-the-top character design. He has all the trappings of cool, with his spiky blond hair, expensive-looking sunglasses, dual pistols and overly strappy red (leather?) coat. But I never believed he was cool. Cool people don't try that hard. Spike from Cowboy Bebop was cool in an effortless way. Vash never won me over with his donut scarfing and funny dance. Obviously all those Vashes (what is the plural of Vash, anyway? Vashi?) at Otakon 2002 disagreed with me.

But really, the issue at hand here is this: Has Trigun aged well? The visuals haven't. Most anime made the change over from cel painting to digital cels in 2000, and Trigun was cel animated in 1998. It looks dusty compared to today's vibrant colors, yet it's not old enough to make me feel nostalgic (like Dirty Pair). Then again, maybe dust on the cels is appropriate for anime set in a desert.

It terms of the story, Trigun holds up to anything you might watch today. Despite claiming to be a pacifist, Vash has a huge bounty on his head for a crime he can't remember committing. As he wanders a colonized desert planet avoiding bounty collectors, he is kept under surveillance by a couple of insurance adjusters who he quickly befriends. The characters are slowly introduced over many episodes, and Vash's mysterious backstory is eventually revealed in episode 17. Trigun never held my attention until episode 17, because I didn't care for Vash until I knew the backstory. After that, I was able to appreciate earlier episodes as they were rerun a million times.

In case you've never seen it and are curious, this inexpensive set gives you a good chance to catch up with the 2000's anime canon. If you've already cosplayed as Jewish Wolfwood, this isn't like the Dragon Box. It doesn't come with cool extras and an attractive box that would make you give up your older inferior copy to a younger cousin. This economy box isn't as low end as the Walmart Moribito box, but this is no luxury good.

Trigun is, of course, the show that made voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch a star. He does a fine job as Vash. The dub script is also a nice adaptation of the sub script that keeps the intent but not the verbatim dialog. It's on par with the finer dubs Funimation has been putting out lately.

My standards for Shelf Worthiness are that I must want to re-watch it, loan it to friends, or it comes with extras that are too great to pass up. This box doesn't come with great extras. Maybe I would own Trigun if I'd only seen the show once. I can't imagine loaning this to anyone because my friends have all seen it already, but maybe your friends haven't. If you're building a comprehensive anime collection or a lending library, you'll want to have a copy of Trigun if you don't already.[TOP]

After the super-cool guitar riffs and Vash's manly friendship with fellow gunfighter Wolfwood, I thought I ought to watch a much girlier show. It was girly in the worst way possible.

To be totally fair, season one of Girls Bravo is Perishable and season two is Rental Shelf, but I feel the entire box is dragged into the mud by the craptacular first season.

In case I haven't made it clear in the past, I am totally skeeved out by underage characters in fan service-heavy shows like this one. Girls Bravo provides two: Tomoka, who claims she's not a kid but wears an elementary school backpack and watches children's shows (her real age is unclear) and Ebi, Tomoka's magical seal mascot who, for one episode, is transformed into an even younger girl wearing only a man's shirt. At least she doesn't hump anyone's leg. The show also loses points in my book for having two small girls approach the protagonist in episode one begging to marry him.

As for the plot, stop me if you've heard this one: milquetoast highschooler Yukinari lives alone and (after accidentally walking in on the violent girl-next-door, Kirie, in his bathroom) gets knocked through a magical portal in his bathtub to an extra-dimensional planet called Seiren. Seiren is populated almost exclusively by women, making men—even those as pitiful as Yukinari—in extremely high demand. I wish the show took place on Seiren, but unfortunately Yukinari only spends one episode there before returning to Earth with a dimwitted Seiren teen named Miharu who starts living in his house and accompanying him to school. Other buxom roommates from Seiren arrive quickly thereafter. Did I mention Yukinari gets a rash every time he touches a girl? (Except Miharu, that is.)

In season one, Girls Bravo has to slog its way through all the perfunctory episodes one expects from this genre (perhaps it's contractual). There's a hot springs episode, a pool episode, and so on. By season two they've exhausted the stock plots and are forced to finally come up with some new ideas. In my opinion, the episodes featuring a mud wrestling tournament and a date in Ikebukuro based on a fake self-help book were far less soul crushing.

In the second season the budget appears to double. Season one looked cheap, with minimal line drawings during some of the school scenes. In season two everything seems extra-shiny, complete with more stylish casual clothes, and (more importantly) the writing and direction are a greatly improved.

For me, the only worthwhile character in this show is Fukuyama. He's a super rich villainous lecher and Yukinari's classmate. In early episodes Fukuyama is insufferable as he sexually assaults all the girls in school with impunity and forces Kirie into sexy outfits under implausible circumstances (implausible outside of a porno movie, that is). In the second season, Fukuyama gets toned down; he's still a lecherous jerk, but he's incorporated into the group of main character as a sort of a super obnoxious friend. In one alternate universe phantom thief episode, Fukuyama's obsession with Kirie is softened into shockingly non-disgusting love story.

Liam O'Brien does a great capturing Fukuyama's megalomania in the dub, so much so that he reminded me of Jinnai from El Hazard. In fact, if I was casting a re-dub of El Hazard I'd cast O'Brien as Jinnai (one of my favorite characters ever).

Although Girls Bravo starts off showing nipples and is little more than chaste softcore pornography, by season two it's more or less straight-up romantic anime comedy. I can't help but wonder if To Love Ru is a direct parody with more of a sci-fi angle. I think To Love Ru is funnier.[TOP]

I purposefully watched a show I knew I'd like to counterbalance Girls Bravo.

I love Oh! Edo Rocket so much that it might be a friendship deal breaker title. I can understand if you don't like this show because of the crazy character designs (see my review of part I), and I can tolerate that non-acceptance of this show from online friends, but I expect that all my real life friends will like this one.

Maybe I'm taking an overly defensive stance on Edo Rocket because I'm worried it's not well loved enough. It's too "quirky" (I hate that word) to inspire fanatical devotion like Naruto or Death Note. Note that when I say "quirky" here I don't mean it's inaccessible because it's overly intellectual or experimental like Mind Games or something like that. Edo Rocket strikes an extremely rare balance between comedy and real history, fun and serious messages, romance and science, plot and action.

There's only one big flaw with this series; in order to fit into two seasons, there are a couple of filler episodes that don't further the plot. Granted, as filler goes, Edo Rocket's is pretty stellar (har), but this show should've been about 18-22 episodes long instead of 26. It's too bad the production pipeline in Japan doesn't support much deviation from the course.

Additionally, there is one big flaw with the U.S. release. It seriously lacks cultural notes. Periodically dub actors tell you to Google for some of the real Japanese historical figures in the series. Maybe I'm just acting like a spoiled brat here, but I bet if the Right Stuf released this they'd throw us a cultural-note-bone. I mean, did you know that in Edo Japan it was common to shout the name of the fireworks manufacturer while watching a fireworks display? That's vital to the end of this series, but it isn't explained within the show itself!

I love love love this dub, but it was a little jarring in one scene where Sora suddenly turns into an otaku thanks to a love potion. In the Japanese track, she starts talking uncontrollably about the minutia of ukiyo-e painting, but in the dub she goes into obsessive detail about Negima! . The spirit of the joke remains the same, but the Japanese track sounds so much classier.

The final handful of episodes are surprisingly political. Or maybe I wouldn't be so surprised if I knew more about the historical politics of Edo, lampooned earlier in the show. In any case, the series makes some very thoughtful points about the Cold War, Japanese isolationism, and the value of artisans, but it keeps you laughing the entire time. I wish all entertainment in every medium could be so simultaneously thoughtful, well-informed, and hilarious.

I'll be loaning Edo Rocket out to all my friends immediately after I finish this column.[TOP]

Also immediately after finishing this column I'm setting up the PS3 I got for Christmas so I can finally watch Blu-rays at home. If you'd like to recommend some games, feel free (although I've heard the PS3 has no game). I'm basically a non-gamer who enjoys button mashing 4-person fighters, Rock Band, Wii Bowling, and games that don't take 60 hours to play or take more than five minutes to learn (excluding mahjong).

This week's shelves are from Jesse:

"Hiya, my name is Jesse and i started collecting anime and manga back in September of 2008, when my friends invited me to join them at an anime convention. Since then, ive put together a collection of around 250 DVD's and 60 manga. Since i live in Australia rather than America, my collection is a mixture of R1 and R4 releases (and a few from japan), which is why some things make look different to the American releases.

When i moved house recently, i finally managed to get an actual shelf for my collection. I made a point of getting one with plenty of space between the shelves so i could fit my NIS America premium boxes :P. "

Very nice!

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

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