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Shelf Life
Clash of the Tytans

by Erin Finnegan,

I hate the Super Bowl. I hate it for very personal reasons which you may have read about in a past column. This year I spent Super Bowl Sunday drinking fine whiskey and watching Fist of the North Star volume 2, which you can read about in next week's column.

Last week, I watched two very un-manly series starring pretty boys in space and one show based on female pro-wrestlers, also set in space.

Tytania can be summed up in five words: talkative pretty boys in space. You're either on board for this or you're not.

Tytania is the name of a family of royals ruling the galaxy, kinda like the Tudors in England or the Hapsburgs in Europe. The Tytania members the series concerns itself with are bishonen if they're under 40, and sport huge old man eyebrows if they're over 40.

The series has an ensemble feel, but if I had to name a protagonist, I'd say it's the hunky red-headed space captain Fan Hulic (under 40), who runs afoul of Tytania when he wins a space battle his superiors intended him to lose. Fan Hulic is very apathetic about his victory, in a nonchalant, Irresponsible Captain Tyler way (although Fan is reserved where Tyler is goofy). Tytania offers to hire Fan (like Microsoft buying out competing companies), and he is considering the offer when he gets kidnapped by space pirates. Well, sort-of kidnapped… by sort-of pirates.

After all, not everyone in the galactic empire is happy with Tytania. Fan has unintentionally become a galactic hero, and a lot of people want to use him to help bring down Tytania's oppressive rule. The would-be pirate/marauders want Fan's help in the growing revolution. The plot goes on from there, as Fan meets revolutionaries and deposed royalty.

There are loads of subplots about the five ruling families of Tytania and the dynastic struggle for succession, but frankly, I was too busy wondering what kind of shampoo these guys use for their ridiculously long hair to care much about the battle strategy meetings (and there are a lot of meetings). Eventually I started to wonder if this is how guys feel when they watch harem comedies starring chicks with big boobs. Do you find it difficult to focus on the dialog when the characters are just too cute? Because I did. I was surprised to find that my husband thoroughly enjoyed this romance novel cover of a sci-fi series. He got into the plot and was never distracted by the ornate military uniforms or hunky men drinking wine.

Tytania lacks any blatant yaoi fanservice, making it different from something like, say, Death Note, where two good-looking teens are handcuffed together for a suggestive stretch of time. The “slashy” fanservice is almost more conspicuous for its absence.

The production quality for the 2D scenes is quite high. Characters remain on model the entire time, and I only noticed foot sliding (a common animation mistake) in one episode. That said, the CG spaceships don't match the 2D animation and are sometimes bad enough to be slightly laughable. It's not as bad as the CG in the first season of Babylon Five, but still.

There isn't a dub, and there are no extras besides clean openers and closers in this barebones release. Tytania is a surprisingly decent show compared to similar, more incoherent female fan service fare like Neo Angelique Abyss, and it is certainly a better show than Miracle Train. This is a solid rental, but I'm not going around recommending it to all my friends, and I wouldn't buy it or re-watch it myself, so I'm giving it a Rental Shelf. I suppose the boys in it weren't exactly my cup of tea (like Golgo 13). I guess I'm just not into long hair.[TOP]

Maybe that's why I like Kei better than Yuri.

I thought Dirty Pair Collection 1 was Shelf Worthy, and Collection 2 serves up more of the same in terms of plot and production quality.

The last two episodes are slightly better animated than the rest, since they were originally released as an OVA. I think there is an important lesson to learn from this; television series deadlines are tough on animation productions! Feature films and OVAs often have far more forgiving schedules that give the crew more time to get things right. In the final two episodes of Dirty Pair, there is an additional level of lighting effects, the elusive 5-tone-shading.

Comparing Dirty Pair to current anime series is tough, because not only have production techniques changed so much over the years, but viewers come to the couch with a different set of expectations. If you're expecting a season arc, there isn't one. I think it's worth comparing Dirty Pair to American cartoons from 1985. It might be worth watching, for example, an episode of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo back-to-back with an episode of Dirty Pair for contrast.

There are those who say that the only Dirty Pair worth owning is the Project Eden movie, but I disagree. Sometimes you want to see the big summer adventure movie that deviates from the television show formula, but there are some shows, like Detective Conan or Golgo 13 or Dirty Pair, where you just want to see the same episode each time. It's a formula that works and you like it, and goddamn if it's not successful. Dirty Pair as a TV series is just long enough to get a feel for it, but not so long that you get sick of it. That said, admittedly this series does not lend itself well to marathoning, since it lacks a season arc to take you from one episode to the next.

One thing I really love about Dirty Pair is the feeling I get that the characters existed before the television series. What I mean to say is, when I watch Dirty Pair, it feels like Kei and Yuri are pop culture icons that everyone knew about already, like the Incredible Hulk or something. It's as if they existed even before the light novels (Wikipedia somewhat confirms my suspicion, mentioning that they were named after pro wrestlers in the late 1970's). I think the only other characters I've gotten this feeling from are from Giant Robo (especially Gin Rei, Taisou, and Youshi).

I also love that Dirty Pair exudes an extremely positive view of the future. In the future world of Dirty Pair there are lots of space colonies and no one appears to be particularly poor or oppressed. It's as if Japan's '80s bubble economy extended naturally into space. Despite ample reasons for it, Kei and Yuri never seem in danger of getting fired, so I suspect they are employed for life. (Or employed until marriage, a topic too big to discuss here.) Plus they have a large expense account to work (or gamble) with, another telltale sign of an '80s dream job in Japan. Contrast this with the Cowboy Bebop future, which extended the 90's Japanese recession into space (maybe the gate explosion was a metaphor for Japan's economic bubble bursting).

There is no dub, and the extras are just some line art galleries.[TOP]

Dirty Pair is light-hearted fun in space. If you want more serious business, there is an awful lot of Gundam to choose from.

I'm not a Gundam expert or fan, but you could call me “Gundam Curious”. I'm open to Gundam. I watched some Wing and Seed on Cartoon Network. I watched the first Mobile Suit Gundam Movie and Char's Counter Attack, but I feel like I've never gotten a real foothold in the Gundam universe. I started to watch Gundam 00 Season One Part One, but it was too old to review for Shelf Life, so I started renting season two instead.

Season one introduced "Celestial Being," a terrorist group trying to eradicate war on Earth using Gundam units. Unlike current Earth's cave-dwelling terrorists, Celestial Being's members hang out in space enjoying their super advanced technology, kind of like Mithril in Full Metal Panic (but with the opposite philosophy). In the second season, the world has banded together against Celestial Being and developed mobile suits just as advanced as the Gundams.

There certainly are a lot of characters in this show! The first two DVDs of the series follow little clumps of characters. Some members of Celestial Being are taken prisoner by a group called the A-Laws. An alcoholic strategist who is pulled out of her drunken tailspin to plan the jail break. We meet Soma Peries, a genetically engineered super soldier girl who pilots Gundams. Soma is the youngest Gundam pilot ever (in the 00 universe), Another soldier named Allelujah Haptism insists Soma has amnesia, and is actually someone else with a different name. This all unfolds with a soap opera quality. (I mean, if soap operas had robots and action scenes I would watch way more soap operas.)

Everyone in this show has a great name. Besides Allelujah Haptism, there are characters named Ribbons Almark, Saji Crossroad, Lockon Stratos, Kati Mannequin, Holly Smirnov and Devine Nova. They all sound like they could all be spies, or Bond girls. The lucky amnesiacs get two awesome names. It's almost unfortunate; the names are so good they're distracting. I actually laughed out loud at some of the names. I also laughed a little at some of the exhaust emitted from the flying Gundam units. It seems that the more advanced the Gundam, the more its jet stream looks like a sparkly rainbow.

Ultimately I should not be laughing at Gundam. Gundam 00 takes itself pretty seriously, (Haro balls provide some comic relief) so why can't I take it seriously? I suppose I just can't buy into the premise. Celestial Being's plan is to stop war forever… by making more war? That's the plan?

The production quality is outstanding. The character designs are appealing, the animation quality is top notch, the mechs look good, the music is solid (although not terribly memorable). The English dub is very good, although no one performance leapt out at me.

I didn't get attached to any of the characters, (although I did like the alcoholic strategist, she didn't get much screen time). I got attached to Amuro Ray in the original Gundam film, and Quess Paraya in Char's Counter Attack. I think 00 is missing a human warmth that's difficult to describe. I wasn't rooting for any of the characters.

The first DVD includes a long recap “Extra” that summarizes the first season in a long highlight reel. I suspect it would've made more sense if I had already seen the first season. The second DVD included a similar recap extra.

The episode count per disc is very low, to the point where I assumed I'd rented two discs of one set. I was surprised to find that these are sold separately. What an old school release![TOP]

Maybe I'm a bad person, because I am rooting for Panty and Stocking. Last week some readers requested more streaming reviews, so I thought I'd catch up to what everyone had been watching online. I also got a new shipment of anime on DVD this week.

This week's shelves are from Richard:

"This is basically my complete anime/manga/figure collection... excluding a couple of Gundam models, one volume of manga, and a few anime posters. My big Narusegawa Naru figure stands on top of my bookcase as a reminder of that first series that got me hooked about six years ago. Since then I've been a regular attendee at Otakon and have been slowly building up my collection. I've seen over 144 anime series but lately have been reading more manga including Oh My Goddess!, Negima!, and Strawberry 100%. I have over 40 large bishoujo figures and a couple dozen gashapon figures which take up the bulk of the space on my shelves (yes, the stack goes up to the ceiling and behind the TV). The bottom two shelves in my bookcase are a library of text books from college with a handful that I do actually reference on occasion."

Nice books! Some of those are definitely worth reading. I approve.

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

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