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Shelf Life
Ōkami Pinkos

by Erin Finnegan,

There will be no Shelf Life on Memorial Day (5/28/12) next week, while I take a vacation to scenic Colorado to visit friends and relatives.

Before getting on the road (or in the air), I decided to take a look at Ōkami-san and Her Seven Companions. Honestly, I'd avoided reviewing this one at first because I confused it for some other fox deity-based titles like Kanokon, Inukami!, and Our Home's Fox Deity. Can you blame me?

Ōkami-san starts off promising. Title character Ryoko Ōkami is a tough girl who's into boxing. Her best friend Ringo wears a cape like Little Red Riding Hood, and they attend a fairy tale themed high school of some sort, in an idyllic town complete with an older lady narrating “Once upon a time…” style intros. The fairy tale angle reminded me favorably of Princess Tutu.

The animation starts off strong, too. The characters all have cute chubby cheeks (like in K-On!), and the backgrounds are cheerful pastels that suit the mood. Ōkami even throws some elegant punches with her cute wolf-faced boxing gloves. This is a handsome looking show overall.

Unfortunately, Ōkami-san turns sour every time it resorts to clichés, tropes, and anime standards. For example, Ōkami and her friends work for a favor-based agency that takes on client problems in the standard anime “we do anything” agency. I'm not convinced this is a financially stable business model, but since Ōkami's group is a high school club, they don't need to worry about cash (more like Sket Dance than Gintama).

I like Ōkami's character as a tough chick, but it's quickly established that she secretly has a girly side (she reads romance novels OMG!). Ever since Otomen, I've gotten weary of characters that go against Japanese gender stereotypes for the laughs (a boy who likes strawberry frappuccinos is apparently hilarious in Japan). You can't just use shorthand for humor, and if you do, the trick to it is in the telling.

Amnesia is so common in shojo manga, one might think it was an epidemic in Japan. I was willing to brush off episode seven as one stinky episode, but episode eight has an overly lengthy discussion on the merits of breast size. I thought Ōkami-san was a much more girl-friendly show up to this point, but like last week, I don't think it's funny offhand to say that women with bigger breasts are simply better than the flat-chested. I believe a joke about anything could potentially be funny, but even the dub couldn't make episode eight better. I could let the scene go if it was a fast insult (like Ranma ½'s jokes about bust lines), but that scene drags on too long.

Fortunately, the dub is quality stuff. Luci Christian brings a lot to the show as the Narrator has a lot of overlapping dialog with characters, making her performance sound like a female riff on R. Bruce Elliott as the (excellent) narrator of Sgt. Frog. Monica Rial is so perfect for Ringo that it's kind of scary, but then, many of Rial's performances are like that. For me the break-out performance is Terri Doty as Alice Kiriki, the club's uptight workaholic secretary. (I haven't heard Doty in other shows, apparently.) Her voice is uniquely memorable and absolutely perfect for the character.

Ōkami-san works better when it doesn't follow pre-set anime standards. A fake preview for an episode about the three little pigs as villains is funnier than the rest of the show. Mostly it's rough that such a nice looking, well-drawn series is written in a disappointing way. If it had low production values and no dub, it may have even been Perishable.[TOP]

Too bad Ōkami-san! And too bad Legend of the Legendary Heroes isn't better than it is.

I heard Funimation is trying to standardize the abbreviation of Legend of the Legendary Heroes as LOL Heroes, and I'm delighted to perpetuate that abbreviation.

Two weeks ago, I complained about the color palette and costume designs in Part 1 of LOL Heroes, and it seems as though my review fell into a time warp and was translated into Japanese and handed to the character designer, because in Part 2 there are some costume changes that feel as though they are directly in response to my opinions.

Most of the show's humor is dropped in part 2 in favor of more beheadings and limb loss. It feels as though the title's creator aimed for something between Slayers and Berserk. He managed to achieve that goal, and this is a really weird show because of it. For example, the white-haired Sion's machinations to the crown are similar to Griffith's, but Sion's fate is not nearly as dark, and it's peppered with unfunny paperwork high jinks.

Worse, there's something deeply wrong with the plot structure. A lot of dialog is devoted to an invasion that never happens. Instead, two episodes take place inside characters' heads across surreal landscapes. I hope that's not becoming an anime standard of some kind (hello, Book of Bantorra). I enjoyed Ryner Lute's fights outside of his head more.

Next, the action stops short in order to plan Sion's birthday party before the fighting finale. What ever happened to Miran Froward? I thought he was important… but nevermind that.

When the final fight happens, it's clearly done by better animators, which is to say, probably guest animators, as it doesn't look like the rest of the show. 24 episodes doesn't quite seem like enough when everything wraps up in a hodgepodge montage of scenes that set up another arc. I wish I knew the manga series was ongoing before I started watching this show.

Speaking of which, the LOL Heroes light novels and manga ran in Dragon Magazine and a few related publications which are known for gamer fantasy, or Dungeons and Dragons sorts of stories. There were one or two episodes of this show I'd rather play as a module than watch on TV. At the very least, if D&D is your thing, LOL Heroes is certainly more of a keeper than it is for non-fantasy-gamers. [TOP]

With no Shelf Worthy titles this week, I checked out a streaming show I was confident I'd like; Space Brothers.

Mutta and Hibito dreamed of becoming astronauts as kids, and now Hibito is an astronaut with NASA. Mutta, the older brother, was working as a car designer until he head-butted his boss (who insulted Hibito) and got fired and blackballed from the car industry. Now completely unemployed, Mutta takes the JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut exam. Early episodes follow Mutta in Japan, then he visits his brother in Houston, and tours the Johnson Space Center. The series is set in the near future; Hibito is supposed to help build a moon base. Mutta said as a kid that if Hibito goes to the moon, he'll go to Mars.

I'm a space enthusiast who once dreamed of being an astronaut, and I got married on a parabolic flight. Space Brothers features some parabolic flight action in episode two. Of course I'd watch this show; like Mutta and Hibito, I hung out at the local Space Center as often as I could when I was a kid.

Because the subject matter is so dear to me, I'm willing to cut Space Brothers a lot of slack, but my patience isn't infinite. The show cuts back and forth between Mutta and Hibito growing up and their present lives as adults. (I wonder if it's trying to do a sort of 20th Century Boys thing?) After seven episodes, the cute flashbacks are starting to wear down on me. Does anyone's childhood life affect their adult life so directly?

I've heard that the Space Brothers anime is incredibly drawn out compared to the manga. Unfortunately, I have no such basis of comparison, but the pace of the show does feel a bit stretched to me.

A word of warning that's kind of an anti-spoiler: as of episode eight, no one has gone into space yet. I realize the series is more about the desire to become an astronaut than time spent among the stars. Even though I share that desire, it's a little more gratifying to watch Planetes (which starts in space). Nevertheless, Space Brothers is already a better show than Moonlight Mile and I'll tell you why. Moonlight Mile is more about Hibito-style characters, which is to say, perfect, very athletic and charismatic dudes who are shoo-ins to be astronauts. Space Brothers charmingly makes Mutta the central character, and unlike his brother, Mutta is pessimistic and feels pathetic after losing his job. He's embarrassed that his younger brother is an astronaut, because in Japan birth order has more cultural significance, plus he's lost his identity to be “Hibito's brother”. Mutta's ideas about what an older brother should be or should do are making him miserable. I can certainly identify with feeling pathetic, or feeling like a failure based on my own high expectations. Surely that's a universal human feeling, although if Hibito feels that way sometimes, he hasn't mentioned it and we haven't seen it.

The best part of the show so far is the score. Big orchestral swells give the feeling that Space Brothers is building up to something important. The worst part of the series is Jennifer, a character who shows up in episode six and starts touring Mutta around Johnson Space Center. She talks like a narrator or tour guide without being either one. Who is she anyway? She says repetitive and obvious things, perhaps to catch up viewers that missed the previous episodes. She's especially annoying if you're marathoning the series.

Episode seven ends on a big and unbelievable coincidence. Even though it was set up early on, it still feels hokey. The coincidence highlights my sneaking feeling that the show suffers from structural problems, but I'm holding out hope it'll end in a satisfying way.[TOP]

On a side note, I got to meet a JAXA representative on my last trip to Japan. My wedding dress was made for a JAXA-sponsored space fashion show, and pictures of the wedding appeared in JAXA's annual catalog that year. The JAXA guy even gave us little astronaut Hello Kitty phone charms and green tea roasted to be brewed in space.

I'll see you guys in two weeks with a look at Infinite Stratos and a listen to the Princess Jellyfish dub.

This week's shelves are from Steve:

"I only started collecting anime and manga about 5 months ago and want to show off my collection so far. I have created quite a nice size collection so far probably because most of the series I like have complete collections. As you can probarbly guess my favourite genre of anime is romance/comedy with my favourites being, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Heaven's Lost Property (Nymph is the best) and Clannad.

My manga is building up slowly even though there are lots more volumes to get and series to start with Love Hina being my only complete series and Rosario Vampire my only up-to-date series. While my figures are few but will soon be expanding thanks to the 30+ figures I have pre-ordered. The only things missing from my pictures are Love Hina vol 11-13 as I am currently reading them, my visual novels and my copies of Miku Project Diva 2nd and Extend. Currently waiting to pre-order 1/4 scale bunny girl Nymph and Oreimo regular edition dvd.

I dont have a collection that can compare to the ones I have seen but i don't think I have done bad for 5 months of collecting. I hope you enjoy the pictures."

Thanks for the pics! Keep up the collecting!

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

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