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Shelf Life
Sending out an SOS

by Erin Finnegan,

I hate it when Halloween falls on a Monday. It ought to be on Friday or Saturday by default. Also, it's snowing as I write this. Sometimes it snows on Halloween in Michigan, but that's just ridiculous for New York City.

My favorite ever "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons is episode 2F03, where Homer slides into different possible dimensions after screwing up time. I loved Grandpa Simpson's advice so much in that episode that I put it as my quote in my high school yearbook senior year: "If you ever travel back in time, don't step on anything because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can't imagine."

It happens that the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is about the same phenomenon, sort of.

So it turns out this is marginally a Christmas movie? The film begins on an unusually cold December 16th. I missed it when this was screened at conventions over the summer, but I assume that if it was hot out when you watched it, this film could act as make-shift air conditioning. The cold comes across just that well. Maybe I'll re-watch this on the hottest day of summer to test my theory.

I've only seen the first season of Haruhi and a tiny handful of Nyoron! Churuya-san! episodes, but that was enough to see this film. The "Endless Eight" gets referenced, but I don't think I was missing much by not having seen it yet. That is to say, if you've seen the whole first season of Haruhi Suzumiya, you can watch this film (or alternately you could read the first book and The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya). If you haven't, the movie might be a little confusing.

Kyon's life is made miserable by Haruhi's antics as she plans a Christmas party without any regards to school rules (no cooking in the club rooms) or (as usual) Mikuru's dignity (put on this sexy Santa outfit). The next day, Kyon wakes up and goes to school feeling out-of-touch. There's a nasty virus going around that Kyon hadn't been aware of, and a number of students are absent.

Haruhi doesn't show up to school, and when Ryoko Asakura (a character from season one) appears and sits at Haruhi's desk, Kyon discovers none of his classmates remember Haruhi at all. He goes crazy, as anyone would in that situation, and runs to the club room only to find that the SOS Brigade never existed and Nagato is human rather than an alien data being.

I always found Haruhi's costume-raping of Mikuru unsettling and Kyon's sarcasm a little too sarcastic, so frankly I was happy that this film ditched the title character for a large portion of the running time. Like Kyon, I get sick of Haruhi sometimes, too (although, yes, I also love her). It's nice to see a Kyon as an emotional participant in the action instead of a detached observer.

Since this series already deals with dimensional sliders and time travelers, I hardly feel it's a spoiler to say that time traveling and/or sliding are involved in this film. It's hard to make talking about time travel look cool on screen without a lot of long, talky scenes, but I think the movie pulls it off in an acceptable way.

Perhaps I've come to that conclusion because the film looks so good. There's a lot of high quality animation (on the 2s!). The color palettes are more complex than in the TV series, and add a lot to the cold and dark mood at the beginning of the film. One particularly memorable talky shot takes place on a rooftop at night, where a cityscape stretches out beautifully in the background. The cityscape looks impressively like how I remember Tokyo's actual night skyline. You could throw that background into a live action show and it wouldn't look fake, yet it still works well with the 2D characters.

The massive amount of extras on an included DVD give you an extended look behind the scenes. You travel with the crew location scouting, you sit with the director during an editing session, and a sound design session, and even a retake session, all in real time (well, it feels like real time). If you want to know what it's like to direct animation, watch these featurettes!

I love Crispin Freeman as Kyon in the dub, but I hated Wendee Lee as Haruhi. Something is wrong with Lee's tone, and I ended up switching back to the Japanese for scenes involving Haruhi.[TOP]

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this movie, after hearing it wasn't so hot. Mostly, I decided to watch a film this week to balance out 40 episodes of Dragon Ball Z.

I remember watching a lot of the Majin Boo Saga on Cartoon Network back in the day, but I must've missed the preceding martial arts tournament funded by Mr. Satan. As Dragonbox six begins, Trunks and Goten are cleaning up in the junior division of the tournament.

There are a handful of quality scenes during the tournament. Before they fight each other, Goten and Trunks fight two mulletted brothers whose mother is a frightening tournament mom. I found this parody of tournament parenting surprisingly insightful, stuck in the middle of otherwise standard DBZ content.

The Trunks versus Goten fight is well animated, on nearly the same level as Krillin versus Goku in the original series. So you get that, but there's also an entire episode devoted to drawing balls out of a box to determine who will fight who. Most of the fights never happen, as just before the adult battle can get underway, the Z fighters are whisked away to fight a wizard who is trying to revive an evil monster named Boo. (There's a play on the characters' names: Bibidi, Babidi, Boo.)

During the tournament, the dub crew comes up with creative voices for background characters. I noted a redneck, a guy with a heavy New York accent, one stereotypical Chinese accent, and a guy with a comical lisp.

Much to my chagrin, the Z fighters must fight their way down through the levels of a spaceship, as if they are clearing the levels of a videogame. I found this annoying. If I wanted to play a videogame, I would just do that. I sat down to watch some anime, damn it. I also think it's a huge rip-off that Krillin and Piccolo get turned to stone right off that bat in this arc.

The ladies of DBZ have a particularly rough time in this set. Videl is beaten senseless by a monster-man, which made me feel horrible. It's hard to watch as she keeps getting back up. Later, Android Eighteen blackmails her way out of a proper fight.

During the spaceship fight, there's a long bit of dialog devoted to why the characters must fight one at a time. I must've missed that episode on TV, I always wondered why they did that. Frankly, I'm not sure I buy the in-show explanation. I suspect it's so the fights can look more like professional wrestling.

Nevertheless, once in a while, the Toriyama magic shines through. I'm not a fan of professional wrestling, and yet I like this show about cartoon characters fighting increasingly unbelievable battles. I don't care about 60% of the characters, let alone the villain, and I still found myself wanting to know what would happen next.[TOP]

After revisiting DBZ, I also revisited the DWMA.

I said Soul Eater part one was worth owning on Blu-ray. It stands to reason that you should finish out the collection. This set is comprised of parts three and four of the DVD release, and if you'll recall, I thought part three was the weakest link while part four was worth owning.

If you asked me three months ago how many episodes long Soul Eater was, without letting me double check, I'd say 26. I certainly don't remember this show being 51 episodes. It seems impossible. I can't tell if I thought it was shorter because I had a good time watching it, or because there were two large arcs that didn't add much to the plot. I'd love to see a fan re-edit of the series cutting out a lot of "the Brew" arc. I think you could get the story told in 35 episodes, tops. I mean, love Excalibur, but episode 32 is one Excalibur story too far.

That said, Soul Eater is no Naruto when it comes to filler. That is to say, even the filler episodes are well-animated. I doubt episode 30, "Red Hot's Runaway Express! The Demon Tool Left Behind by the Great Demon Guru?" is based on the manga, but it's a fun episode. Death the Kid and the Thompson sisters travel across the desert to find a legendary ghost train. The colors are spectacular, the animation looks like a lot of fun, and the characters interact with well-written dialog. The stand-alone episode doesn't contribute much to the over all plot, but it's still a good episode.

I watched all of the Soul Eater Late Show extras this time around, some of which I had skipped before. It's kind of amazing how much comedy you can squeeze out of a few sketches, re-used footage clips, and a handful of real life photographs. I picture the Late Show being absolutely hilarious to the cast and crew of Soul Eater, but it only made me chuckle once or twice. As a hint to other Excalibur fans: there is some new Excalibur footage in the Late Show extras.

Mostly Soul Eater looks like it was a fun show to work on. It looks like it was fun to design and fun to animate; even the dub cast sounds like they had a great time dubbing this show. Despite all the images of death and Chrona's whining, Soul Eater oozes with fun.

I've read a lot of lists of "Halloween Anime" in the last week and nobody ever seems to mention Soul Eater, which is crazy! Soul Eater is filled with Jack-o'-lanterns and witches and black cats. It'd be a great show to project on the wall during a Halloween party.[TOP]

That's it for me. Happy Halloween, and I'll see you next week with a look at the Emma: A Victorian Romance Complete Series Limited Edition Bundle.

This week's shelves are from Caleb:

"I've been an anime fan for about 15 years and have been collecting for about 10 years or so. I've mostly focused on collecting DVDs and manga, but some other merchandise has found its way in over the years. During junior high and high school I printed out hundreds of anime pictures to use as references for my drawings. Recently I used what was left of those printouts to wallpaper my room. The two large Star Wars drawings and the large Ah My Goddess watercolor were all drawn/painted by me. I apologize in advance for the quality of some of the pictures. I did the best I could with what I had."

Very nice!

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

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