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Shelf Life
From Me to Yu

by Erin Finnegan,

School is back in session at NYU, where I work. We implemented a new checkout system, but that probably isn't interesting enough to go into detail about here. Lately I've gotten used to a life that's usually a little more exciting than basic data entry, but hey, at least my days aren't as banal as Sawako's from Kimi ni Todoke. Her entire world gets turned upside down when the seating chart is re-arranged in school…
Frankly I'm surprised to see this was released in October, since my pre-ordered copy arrived in January. Anyway, Kimi ni Todoke just isn't for me. Don't get me wrong, usually, I like shojo. His and Her Circumstances is one of my top three favorite anime series of all time, I love Peach Girl, and I was head over heels for Boys Over Flowers (especially the J-drama adaptation). Watching KnT I realized that all three of those series have something in common that KnT doesn't: a fiery protagonist.

In fact, Sawako is the opposite of fiery. She's quiet and creepy, which has earned her the nickname “Sadako” (like in The Ring). Her kind intentions are continually read as weird by her classmates, and Sawako, in turn, isn't that good at “reading” her classmates. She's so bad at it that I started to think of her as being on the spectrum after ten episodes. Fortunately, Sawako's reject life is turned around when the boisterous, super-popular Kazehaya winds up befriending her after the class seating chart is re-arranged.

Kazehaya and Sawako are so super-innocent that neither recognizes their own crush on the other for at least six episodes. Especially not Sawako, who is selfless to such a degree as to be nearly sexless. I don't think she's “discovered” boys yet. It's probably a bad sign that I keep wanting to throttle the protagonist. (I picture slapping her in a classic, “Snap out of it!” scene.)

I found the series somewhat painful until episode seven, when Sawako hangs out with her new found friends at someone's house. It's a cute episode, wherein Sawako is incredibly grateful for such a normal experience as eating chips with buddies. I found myself wishing that Sawako's appreciation of everyday life was justified by a very tragic early childhood. I mean, I'd understand her humble gratitude if she'd grown up as a war orphan in the third world. Or, for example, in Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirely is continually grateful for small things, as her prior life as an abused orphan was terrible. (I haven't seen the prequel anime, Before Green Gables… I wonder how loyal it is to the novels.) Sawako's parents are (disappointingly!) alive and her childhood seems quite normal in flashback.

At episode eight, a rival for Kazehaya's love appears, the curly-haired Ume Kurumizawa (all love rivals must have curly hair, as per shojo convention. (Wait… I have curly hair…)). Sawako completely trusts Ume, which makes them fast “frenemies.” Ume is a lot like Sae from Peach Girl in terms of being a manipulative jerk, but she's less immediately threatening. I didn't love-to-hate her right away, and I think that's an important quality for any good soap opera villainess.

Granted, KnT is very pretty. The backgrounds are lovely watercolors, and the characters are drawn with such precision that the slightest change in expression gives them an entirely different micro-mood. Some of the background art is reproduced in the large hardcover book that comes with this NIS set. As NIS releases go, though, I think this book is a little disappointing. Most of the pages are dedicated to screengrab summaries of individual episodes, which made me think of Roman albums, or Ani-manga. I think Wagnaria!! and Arakawa Under the Bridge had more informative books.

I suspect KnT lives and dies on your sympathy for Sawako. If you like her from episode one, you're good to go. If you think she's kind of annoying, don't bother.[TOP]

I have no such hesitation about Redline. Buy it immediately. Do not pass Go.

I hate cars, but I love this movie. I watched this with a gearhead friend who flipped out over the technical details that I couldn't hope to understand.

Oh right, the plot. If this the first time you're reading about Redline, here it is: our pompadour-ed protagonist Sweet JP drives a Trans-Am in intergalactic races in the distant future against other, far more alien looking vehicles and drivers. Unfortunately, JP's childhood best friend and mechanic Frisbee owes money to the mafia after using shady loans to buy JP souped-up car parts. After the preliminary Yellowline race which opens the film, the Redline finals are set to take place on Roboworld, a militant planet that opposes the race and will do anything to stop it. Several racers back out, afraid of the lethal danger, but not Sonoshee, aka “Cherry Boy Hunter,” who also happens to be JP's crush.

The first thing that hit me about Redline was the lack of shadows in favor of dark black inks. Redline has bright contrast-y scheme that looks like no other anime (except the director's previous work, “World Record” from The Animatrix). Second, “everything” is hand-drawn. In this day and age of all CG vehicles, it is a ballsy film that insists on hand-drawn cars.

Although the packaging and extras say “hand drawn hand drawn hand drawn,” the film was obviously digitally painted (as opposed to cell painted). In the “Redline Perfect Guide” one of the staff was clearly using Maya (the 3D graphics program) to add CG birds, and another staff member layers on a lot of digital reflections to metal and leather. If you add Photoshop-style lighting effects using a Wacom tablet, is that hand drawn? Maybe it's more hand drawn than calculating the reflectivity of NURBs surfaces. Redline might fly in the face of computer graphics, but let's not kid ourselves, it also benefits from current technology.

The other significant bit in the “Red Line Perfect Guide” is an interview with Takeshi Koike and Katsuhito Ishii where they talk about how much plot was dropped from Redline. A lot of unused back story was written that didn't make the cut, and I think that's just fine.

In the first class I took in film school, after each screening of a student's work, our professor asked the student what they were trying to accomplish. If the film achieved the director's goal, the professor considered it a success. Koike and Ishii say over and over again what they were trying to accomplish in the extras: they wanted to make a fun movie anyone could enjoy. I believe they achieved that goal.

Redline is nothing if not accessible. Compare that to another technically accomplished anime feature, Akira. Although it is well-loved, Akira tried to adapt too much (unfinished?) manga. It's hard to follow, and so violent as to completely isolate some viewers. Redline has a little nudity, but you can loan it out to far more friends and relatives than Akira.

I'm not immune from the blogger buzz about Redline, and I immediately bought the Japanese Blu-ray when it came out, choking down the international shipping fee. I can definitively say that it's worth buying the American BD even if you own the previous release. For one thing, the extras I keep mentioning weren't on the Japanese BD. The subtitles have been cleaned up with a smoother translation, and the dub adds a ton of character. I was a little bored during the Roboworld command center scenes watching the Japanese BD, but the dub performances and translation made the very same scenes pop this time around. The translation is so much better that I felt the entire film made a lot more sense in just one viewing. I particularly love the gravelly-voiced Liam O'Brian as Frisbee, but I'm only lukewarm on Patrick Seitz as JP.

OK, almost all of the translations are cleaned up. Some English intertitles in the Perfect Guide are left in hilarious Engrish. For example: “The thing which wants you to take it in from REDLINE?” (Presumably a better translation would be: “What do you want viewers to take away from REDLINE?”)[TOP]

I felt I got my money's worth out of Redline. Eizou Hakusho had the opposite effect.

I had it in my head all week that this was a “Rental” but the more I thought about it, the more this release annoyed me. I can't see anyone except the most hardcore Yu Yu Hakusho collectors owning this.

“The Movie” is OK, as long as you know going in that it's only a half hour long. Where I come from, that's called a short film. As a Shonen Jump property, nothing affecting the larger story arc can go down, so the film is a quick summer side-adventure with a silly ending. To be fair, the animation is a lot higher quality in the movie than it is during the TV series. I was especially enamored of the animated backgrounds, but then, I always like animated backgrounds.

Eizou Hakusho made me feel like a video archeologist. You see kids, in decades past, the home video market wasn't what it was today. A junior high kid in 1994 probably couldn't hope to collect all 112 episodes of YYH on expensive commercial VHS with four episodes per volume (especially in Japan… or indeed, buy the Laserdiscs). I imagine Eizou Hakusho was culled as a way to give fans something somewhat more affordable to own. It's a series of best-of fight scenes followed by music videos featuring best-of character moments. There are some original bits in Eizou Hakusho, and they come in the form of tiny, one minute comedic interludes.

Even though I didn't buy this DVD, I somehow felt ripped off watching it. Let me say that again: I spent zero dollars, and still somehow want my money back. Surely that's the earmark of a Perishable title. Even if I was a fan of YYH, I think I would feel ripped off by the miniscule and insignificant amount of new footage in Eizou Hakusho.

Unintentionally adding insult to injury, I've been watching YYH on BD, but this disc is only a DVD. I'd already seen all the fights highlighted in Eizou Hakusho in higher quality with cleaned-up colors, so they looked particularly crappy in this release. Instead of being wowed by the fights, I not-so-fondly recalled the days of watching 2nd or 3rd generation VHS anime.

Speaking of which, one of the extras is a series of piracy warnings read by each character. They've been meticulously dubbed into English, and I could not care less. Another worthless extra is a bizarre trade-show-targeted “vintage” trailer from Funimation. There are some choicely dated video effects in some of these extras. (Eventually I started shouting, “It belongs in a museum!”)

You can skip this one, particularly if you still own the laserdisc.[TOP]

Next week I'll hit up that re-release of Gasaraki from TRSI.

This week's shelves are from Marina, who shared the following photos:

Fun stuff!

Want to show off your collection? Send your jpgs to [email protected]

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