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Shelf Life
Magnificent Eleven

by Erin Finnegan,

Anime Weekend Atlanta was great! I got to meet some Shelf Life readers, my panels were well attended, and I was lucky enough to go to great parties with old and new friends.

Shelf Life will be taking a break next week (meaning an actual week off; Bamboo won't be subbing in) while I'm at New York Comic Con. My “Unusual Manga Genres” panel will be at 11 AM on Friday (October 14th) on the Anime Main Stage. I hope that goes OK… I'm a little freaked out to be on an actual stage.

But let's get down to Shelf Life business! 11 eyes finally showed up in my rental queue…

Based on the trailers, I didn't think I'd like 11 eyes, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the show, at least at first. Sure, there are a lot of database tropes, but if I squinted a little I could sort of avoid the panty shots and not think about the non-consensual groping scenes. With those things out of the way, I was free to enjoy the plot.

Kakeru and Yuka are childhood friends who grew up in the same orphanage, and they seem just on the brink of hooking up as a real couple in high school when they're suddenly thrown into another dimension they name “The Red Night.” There, they are forced to fight creepy monsters spawned by some creepier villains. Fortunately, the couple is quickly rescued by a (red-headed) sword-wielding badass named Misuzu, who also attends their school. (The-red headed girl with a sword is apparently a trope now, like in Shakugan no Shana.)

Our trio is whisked back to the normal world soon enough, where they meet other kids at school who have also been forced to fight in the Red Night. There's a videogame logic at work; they don't know when the Red Night will appear or why the monsters want to kill them. The small group of dimensionally afflicted friends starts meeting up like an afterschool games club, except they are forced to go on raids. I can dig it.

Most of the characters have interesting back stories. For example, I liked Yukiko as a character, even if she had the cliché-personality-changes-when-the-glasses-come-off thing and was a (the) compulsive breast groper. It turns out she's from a crazy war-torn village that's relevant to the plot, and even though she seems cheerful she's filled with deep dark angst.

I was even willing to forgive some of the repetitive dialog early on. Kakeru says over and over again how much he wants to "protect" Yuka. He says it so often that you just know he's going to fail horribly later on. You can also guess from the start that Yuka probably has some kind of magic power, since all of the main characters have powers. Many of the subsequent plot "twists" are equally obvious. Nevertheless, the characters were lively enough (and cute enough) that I found the show charming.

Unfortunately just before the half-way mark, the plot starts to go awry. 11 eyes presents almost textbook examples of poor writing. The “bad guys” move without motivation, which might work in videogames but seems hackneyed in anime. We eventually find out why they're doing what they do, but we never know why the bad guys time attacks at odd intervals. In fact, even the good guys show up for scenes as the plot demands, rather than gathering for some plot-motivated reason. Eventually, two characters sleep together explicitly in order to advance the plot, and they explain it that way, too, which is laugh-out-loud bad writing.

11 eyes has very appealing character designs (if not a tad generic), decent animation, and a kickass opening theme song. It's too bad the writing department dropped the ball on the ending so badly.

A non-continuity OVA episode at the end is one long sex joke. I appreciated this "Pink Night" episode, which graciously kept the ubiquitous hot springs scene out of the main continuity. The OVA may be an eye-roller, but it's funny enough.[TOP]

In my first year of Shelf Life, it struck me that a series is only as strong as its villain. I didn't buy the villain's motivation in 11 eyes, and after fifty episodes of Yū Yū Hakusho I've totally forgotten Toguro's motivation.

This set contains episodes 29-51, which means it doesn't quite match up with season two, which is 26-66 (if you believe Wikipedia). This awkward cutting up of the series means that the Dark Tournament arc neither begins nor ends in this box. It's just one long slog with no relief.

I still have serious problems with the Yū Yū Hakusho premise as explained in my review of part one. I liked the YYH presented in the first four episodes, and not this giant, unending tournament. I've just never been into pro wrestling. Don't get me wrong, the Chūnin Exams are still my favorite episodes of Naruto, and I like DBZ enough, but I think those shows have more a plot-based fighting structure. YYH seems like it's trying hard to sell us a trading card game about yokai arena battling.

Unlike Naruto, I can't bring myself to care about any of the members of Yūsuke's team. Sure, Yūsuke and Kuwabara have some history, but I still feel like I barely know Hiei or Kurama. I won't say who, but one major character dies and I found myself completely indifferent.

Part way through the box, Koenma reminds Yūsuke about his spirit egg, which was important early on. Yūsuke seems to have forgotten about it, and frankly, so did I. And you know what? Yūsuke doesn't even care about his spirit egg anymore… and neither do I! When his spirit animal finally shows up it seems absurd and unneeded.

Yūsuke spends a significant amount of this set training in a cave, screaming. If there is one saving grace to this set it is that the dub actors do a great job with all the screaming. Granted, the dub isn't very loyal to the script. 80% of the fight announcer's dialog consists of very obvious lines like, “He's in a big pinch now!” (Japanese people say “big pinch” all the time, “Dai pinchii!”) The dub graciously varies the most didactic of the dialog, spicing it up with self-referential, sometimes ironic lines. Granted, the script re-writes take away an element of sincerity.

Some of the effects animation (explosions, energy beams, smoke) look great on Blu-ray, but frankly, if I'm scrutinizing the flying rocks, it's because I'm bored senseless. Less important scenes involving the girl characters relegated to watching the fight don't look so great, but it's nowhere near Initial D syndrome (where the characters look terrible as soon as they step out of the car).[TOP]

I certainly hope part three of YYH picks up. Fortunately, I got to watch more Sgt. Frog this week.

I Love Me some Sgt. Frog.

Someone in the discussion of Season 3 Part 1 pointed out that Funimation had less time to dub season three of Sgt. Frog than they did for seasons one and two. I don't know if that's true, but it does seem like a reasonable explanation of why there aren't quite as many dub jokes this season. Nevertheless, the dub is still worthwhile and witty.

Having exhausted holidays, the Keroro Platoon (Armpit Platoon in the dub) take part in a number of both shorter and longer format adventures. Episode 74 has 15 two-minute adventures, which is favorably reminiscent of The Simpsons episode 3F18 “22 Short Films About Springfield” (which is fine, according to South Park episode 86, “Simpsons Already Did It”).

In fact, this set is filled with memorable episodes as the Platoon's adventures start to take place on a grander scale. A Spirited Away parody episode seems like it was a lot of work to animate; later, the frogs go on a cool moon mission. Also memorable is episode 73, "Fuyuki 198X: Our Summer Vacation," wherein Fuyuki travels back in time to the 1980's and meets his mother. Fortunately the results aren't as bad as the analogous Futurama episode (“Mr. I'm my own Grandpa!” I like that this topic has an entire Wikipedia page.)

As the frogs acquire more elaborate technology (often from the Nishizawa estate) it seems as if their chances of a successful invasion increase, and thus their subsequent failures are more spectacular than ever. For example, in one episode, a massive Nishizawa blimp can grant mind-control powers to make someone king of the world. Global domination never works out for Keroro, but the loss of that device is particularly ridiculous.

I checked out a couple episodes in Japanese, and I think the characters have funnier Japanese voices, even if I prefer the dub. I'm convinced that since Geroro ends sentences with “de gozimasu” in Japanese, the extra syllables leave more room for dub jokes.

This set in particular has some great comedic situations. In one scene, Keroro must choose between stealing a golden toilet or saving his friend Fuyuki from drowning. It's not exactly Sophie's Choice, but it is a clever setup.

I can't imagine that Sgt. Frog keeps getting better forever (there are how many more episodes?!) but certainly this season is a winner.[TOP]

I'll see you in two weeks, after con season is finally over. Hopefully I'll have time to get through this Fist of the North Star season three box set…

This week's shelves are from Conor:

"I am not a great collector of anime or figures, but as you are able to see; great Manga makes my day. I started collecting manga about 7 years ago, starting off with the large shonen titles like Naturo or Bleach (which I don't collect anymore).

About one year later I started to move into the more “adult manga” , like gekiga, including all English translations of Yoshihiro Tatsumi works.

A major part of my collection is made up by the English translations of the great Osamu Tezuka's works. I am also very proud about the Akira manga by Katsuhiro Ōtomo, which took me some time to track down since it was or might still be out of print .

One of my Favorite manga in my collection is the Path of the Assassin series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, which I'm still working on to complete (5 more to go =) )"

Awesome shelves!

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

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