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Shelf Life
East of Eden

by Bamboo Dong,

Erin's out for the week, so I'm stepping in! We're going to have all sorts of fun this week. It may be a holiday, but anime stops for no one.

Here's your holiday riddle: In 90% of all shonen (and magical girl!) anime, there is a lot of leveling up going on. A lot of time is spent either powering up, transforming, or reciting some kind of spell/jutsu/summon. So why doesn't the other guy just attack at that point? If my opponent is going to be off guard for 20 seconds, that is the perfect time to step in and punch that foolio in the face. It's still honorable if I yell, “Heads up!” before I do it.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

It's no mystery that high-definition… removes all the mystery. If there's a flaw, people will see it. If there's even one tiny ink stroke out of place, people will see it. That's what's kind of interesting about Dragonball Z Kai. When they remastered the original series, they ended up recoloring over a good number of the preexisting stills to mitigate most of the damage. But even so, HD hides nothing. Even though I was enjoying all the punching and energy blasting, I kept glaring at all the imperfections on the screen. Places where the shading was patchy, ink splotches that strayed into the whites of Frieza's eyes… It's not a bad thing. It's just noticeable. Personally, I don't know that it's worth plunking down the extra money on the BD for a series like Kai.

In this chunk of episodes, our lovable heroes are fighting against the giant lizard-looking, lipstick-wearing menace that is Frieza. They thought he was tough before, but oh ho!, now he's leveling up! That's alright, Vegeta has devised a plan. Because Saiyans are stronger every time they come back from the brink of death, he has Gohan blast him “half to death,” so that when he gets healed, he'll be stronger. I was almost disappointed when Piccolo didn't grunt, “No pain, no gain.” This goes on for a few episodes, but not unexpectedly, eventually Goku tag-teams in.

Let me take a quick detour and mention something that the immature part of me couldn't stop giggling at. There are quite a few subtitles that are unintentionally hilarious. Like when Vegeta (or maybe it was Piccolo?) looks at Frieza in horror and says, “He's going to blow the entire planet of Namek!” Or later when Goku emerges from his healing tank and says, “Forgive me… I'm coming soon.” Yeah, yeah, I have the mind of a 12-year-old, but that stuff's funny as hell. Especially with Frieza's sassy red lips.

Of all the Dragonball Z villains, I do think that Frieza is one of the more interesting because he provides valuable insight into Vegeta's character. Without Frieza's endless planet-destroying shenanigans, a lot of exposition is lost regarding Vegeta and Goku, and how they relate to each other. It's sometimes hard to remember that buried deep within all the rubble of fighting, there is actual backstory.

Z was never my favorite iteration of Dragonball. I found it too long, and I thought it took itself a little too seriously. And I thought the rules that it was constantly re-inventing for itself as to how characters are always able to power-up and/or come back to life were a bit much. Luckily, Kai really speeds things along. It's still just as ridiculous, but it distills the series down to what people like the most—endless fighting. It's still not my cup of tea, but if you're looking for a good way to get the Z experience without spending 145 hours of your life, then Kai is the way to go.[TOP]

Since I already had energy coursing through my veins, I opted for another tale of vengeance and glory. Just as masculine, just as powered-up, but with 100% less Bulma, whom I hate with the fire of a million suns.

Hero Tales has the rollicking feel of a Saturday morning cartoon. The characters are rambunctious, the pacing is fast, and if there wasn't so much blood, it'd be the perfect electronic babysitter for a tween. Even for an adult, it's the kind of show that, once you start watching, it's incredibly hard to stop—and not necessarily because it's good. Case in point, as I was watching the first episode, I thought to myself, “This show is kind of dumb and trite.” But by the time I got to the end credits, I was hooked.

It's not that you've never seen this kind of story before—you have—and not just because it's based on folklore. The series introduces us to a boy named Taito whose city is pillaged one day by an a-hole of a general who's there to steal a sacred sword. Inexplicably, the two end up fighting and even though Taito is no match for the seasoned warrior, he unlocks a hidden power within himself and discovers that only he is able to unsheathe the sword. Explained later, there is a divine warrior to correspond with each of the seven stars of the Big Dipper, but two of them—the Alkaid and the Dubhe, are destined to clash with each other. As fate would mandate it, Taito is the Alkaid. He vows to travel to the capital to defeat the general (whom you might infer by now is the Dubhe), and along the way meets up with the other Divine Warriors.

Even though this story is not new, it's told in such a way that's incredibly captivating. It follows some of the standard tropes—the hero trains every day and learns how to control his powers—but refreshingly, the supporting characters aren't just there to back him up. They each have their own side stories that make them veer off the expected path. One of them has to deal with the pain of watching a loved one die before his eyes, while another one must come to grips with the harsh realities of choosing to side with either the Alkaid or the Dubhe. Even that clash is not black and white; unlike many other shonen shows in this vein, the Dubhe is eventually developed as more than just a one-sided, demonized villain.

To be honest, as much as I couldn't put down Hero Tales, and as much as I'm looking forward to the second part, I don't know that I would ever watch it again. It's fun and engaging, but it's the kind of disposable entertainment that's only interesting once. It's kind of like a puzzle—you obsess over it until you solve it, but once it's done, it's done. And that's the way I feel about Hero Tales. I just want to see what happens next. On that same token, I do urge everyone to give it a chance, especially if you're looking for a popcorn action flick that'll whittle away a lazy Sunday.

It's easy to dismiss Hero Tales instantly because of its goofy character designs and its simplistic animation. I rolled my eyes at least twice in the first five minutes just because of how generic the meat-headed characters looked. I mean, the characters' biceps actually spray blood when they power up. It is truly ludicrous. The human body is not an old garden hose. It doesn't just leak when there's too much pressure. And I'm pretty sure all the character designs were scrapped together from some middle schooler's doodle book, because they lack any kind of defining characteristics. And, while we're at it, let's just assume this project wasn't too high on the priority list when it came to budget allocation. But despite all that, if you give this show a begrudging chance, you will find that it is a good time.[TOP]

Speaking of a good time, I nearly wet my pants at least three or four times watching The King of Eden. If you haven't seen the TV series yet, you need to get on that. It's easily one of the greatest shows released in the past few years, and you'll feel really left out when everyone starts talking about it except you.

The King of Eden takes place roughly six months after the end of the TV series. After Akira Takizawa diverted a shower of missiles aimed at Japan, he had his memories erased, moved to New York, and had Juiz erase every record of his existence from the Internet. He's renamed himself Akira Iinuma, to pose as the Prime Minister's illegitimate son—except he has no recollection of doing any of this. It's all part of his plan to be the King… which he isn't aware of, because he has no memories. But luckily, Saki tracks him down and clues him back into what's going on. Meanwhile, all the other remaining Selecao are still playing the game.

I love this movie for three very distinct reasons. The first is the background visuals. Eden of the East had gorgeous backgrounds, but The King of Eden is like a steak feast for the eyes. It's one of the only anime I've seen that is set in New York that actually makes a solid effort to draw the city exactly the way it is. The level of detail is mouthwatering. Not only is the skyline almost an exact replica, but even all the freeway signs look real. The street signs are photorealistic down to the rust on the signposts. Not only does it add a layer of reality to the movie, but it's invigorating from an artistic standpoint. The amount of research that went into this work (and the series) is mind-blowing, and as a viewer, it's an absolute thrill to see an end-product that has so much effort poured into it.

Secondly, Juiz's “character” is delightfully saucy in the movie, which is a fascinating change of pace for viewers who've seen the series. Throughout the show, with the exception of a few moments, Juiz is much more detached from the Selecaos than she is in this movie. She executes the commands of the players, and aside from a few well-wishes, she's very professional. With The King of Eden, she's much more humanized, going even as far as to act against certain Selecaos, and be capable of expressing hurt feelings. Compounded with the events at the end of the movie that I dare not spoil, she becomes a much bigger piece of the puzzle, and it's a wonderful addition to the Eden mythos.

Thirdly, Eden of the East—and especially The King of Eden—is fascinating from a social and anthropological standpoint. It places a lot of focus on the growing disparity between the youth of Japan and the older generation. Selecao game aside, mysterious missiles aside, this is by far and away the most interesting facet of this entire franchise. If you recall from the series, one of the ideas brought up to “save Japan” was to kill all of the NEETs. By the time of The King of Eden, many of the NEETs have essentially banded together behind Takizawa, but the social issues that Japan are facing are long from being solved. There is still a conscientious divide between the adults and the disenchanted youth, who either don't care about the problems facing the country, or are simply at a loss for what to do. It's a theme that's come up in various animated and live-action works over the past decade or so, but not many have been handled as deftly as in the Eden franchise.

You can take The King of Eden at face value. You can simply enjoy it as just a continuation of the magnificent Eden of the East series, and wonder what will happen when Takizawa goes back to Japan. Or you can watch it and ask yourself the deeper question—how would I save a broken country? It's not something that's specific to Japan. You can take the central conflicts in Eden of the East and apply that to the US, or any other first world country, and you'd end up with the same issues. If you're a nerd for such things and enjoy scrutinizing social problems, you'll find the movie to be delightfully mentally stimulating.

What Funimation has done with The King of Eden is wonderful. They've released the movie on three discs—two DVDs that contain the movie and extras, and a Blu-Ray that contains both. The BD looks fantastic. The animation is crisp and beautiful, and being able to see those stunning backgrounds in high-definition is worth the money. And for those times you don't have your Blu-Ray player handy, you have the movie on DVD.

Look, I don't care if you've never watched Eden of the East before, but I'm telling you two things. One, watch it. Two, watch this movie. And then when you're done, pre-order the next movie.[TOP]

Alright folks, that's my time. Enjoy your week, and thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Ninjapet, who worried her shelves weren't big enough. Fear not, Ninjapet, we love all collections here, big and small.

"I've been meaning to send in my small collection for a while. I always go “ wow everyone seems to have more dvds or manga then me” when ever I see shelf life so I was a bit worried that my shelves weren't worthy.

I don't own much, but it's only been two years or so now. I am a teen so most of this came from saving up what ever money I did get from gifts, the one job I was able to get over the summer this year, ect ect. The items that set me back the most in my collection would surprise you. Dun dun dun, my imported copy of Umineko's PS3 port and my Mari figure. I tend to spend more on figures and mech items then anything. (I've been good about it lately!)"

Hey, splurging on figures is a time-honored tradition.

Want to show off your shelves? Send your jpgs to [email protected]. Thanks!

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