Shelf Life
Paradise Found

by Bamboo Dong,

Readers, I'm happy to announce that I am taking up the reins of Shelf Life once more. It was nice having a break from the column, but I missed it dearly, and I'm really excited to be back! Thank you to everyone who supported me with The Stream, and in fact, I'm happy to say that it won't entirely disappear. It'll just be folded into Shelf Life.

Every month, there'll be an adapted version of The Stream (Stream Life, perhaps?) that will follow a similar format as previous Stream columns, except just focus on the “Top 5.” Those series will receive longer reviews, while other titles not yet axed will have shorter, one-paragraph reviews. Those titles that are dropped will also have longer reviews, so I can properly explain why I feel justified in never watching another second ever again. Hopefully this will give a good balance between showcasing titles that are out on hard media, as well as those that are simulcasting. As always, feedback is welcome, and hopefully we can reach a product that is beneficial and entertaining to everyone involved.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not going back to reviewing hentai. Those days are over.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

In the demonic world of indie death metal, rape and murder are the law of the land, and Krauser II is the emperor. At least that's the case in Detroit Metal City, an incredible comedy that lampoons the ridiculousness of death metal and its fans. I had heard about this series for a few years now, and envied a handful of Krauser figures, even not knowing what it was. In fact, I was prepared to go in fighting the hype, but holy Hell, this show is amazing. Part of me felt like an immature teenager, laughing every time Krauser yelled “RAPE!,” but most of me was grinning too hard to care.

Johannes Krauser II, the emperor of… death and Hell and whatever else terrible, is in actuality a meek guy named Soichi. Since youth, he's dreamed of being a pop star, singing about eating cheese tarts with his lover, and holding her hand under the moonlight. He loves his parents dearly, and he wants to make them proud. Instead, he's the lead singer of Detroit Metal City (named after KISS' “Detroit Rock City”), an indie death metal band that sings about raping and murdering and wreaking destruction on everything. His persona is believed to have murdered his parents at a young age (and subsequently raping their corpses), and his life is one of drugs and alcohol. But really, he's a sweetheart. He wants desperately to spend time with his crush, but DMC obligations keep getting in the way—at some point, he finds himself in that goofy Disney cliché where he has to be in two places at once, and starts getting his costumes mixed up.

Twelve episodes is the perfect runtime for Detroit Metal City. Any less and we would've missed out on some great scenes; any more, the premise would've gotten a little tired. As it is, the series has just enough steam to run through the entire season and still be funny to the last second. Even though the joke doesn't change (Soichi is still a mild-mannered guy who still is ashamed of his Krauser alter-ego), the series finds fresh ways to make it funny. Most of it is Soichi's soft side—despite his guttural yells of “RAAAAAAPE,” he can't help but try to do good deeds, like tutor his brother in history, or visit (who he thinks is) a Sick Kid at the hospital. But a lot of it also comes in the fanaticism of DMC's fans. No matter what silly thing Krauser does, they find a way to idolize him. If he disappears off the stage, it's to rape someone. If he falls on someone, it's to… well, it's to rape someone. There's a lot of faux-rape. It shouldn't be funny, but it's so ridiculous and outlandish that it is, especially contrasted with Soichi's meek interior.

There are also some good visual gags in there that are subtly funny. One scene that particularly stands out to me is when Soichi threatens to quit the band and they replace him with a Caribbean guy. After Soichi returns to the stage, the Caribbean Krauser just stands there, limp, looking sad and dejected. For several minutes, this remains unchanged, and it makes the scene way funnier than it has any right to be. Blessedly, the art style also looks delightfully old school, even though the manga only debuted less than ten years ago. Soichi's bowl cut (which Krauser pointed out, looks like a penis) gave me flashbacks to the late 90s when they were all the rage. Presumably, that's also the last time anyone on this Earth has seen a bowl cut.

Personally, I've never really been into scream metal. I was into Metallica, but that's not quite the type of WAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHHHUUUUUPP throat attack that Detroit Metal City embodies. Luckily, the show is hilarious, so even if Krauser's yelling sounds like a jackhammer on a Sunday morning, DMC's songs are one of the highlights of the show. I had an amazing time with this series. If you don't watch it, you're a chump.[TOP]

Sometimes in the evenings, my roommate and I will browse the questionable offerings on late night cable, because they're an incredible mix of schlocky and hilarious, provided enough red wine has been imbibed. Recently there was one on called Busty Coeds vs. Lusty Cheerleaders, featuring actresses with some of the most absurd boob jobs I've seen (and I live in Orange County!). But, spectacularly, it features a soundtrack by someone named Roobies Breastnuts (of course), and in it, there is a track that literally has a woman cooing, “Bouncing (bouncing, bouncing, bouncing)… Boobies? (boobies? boobies? boobies?)” And maybe it was with that in mind that I decided to watch Freezing.

Freezing is the kind of show that you buy online, not at Best Buy, because no one wants to walk up to the counter with a boxset featuring a girl with her clothes exploding off her tits. It doesn't matter how nonchalant you look, or if you're dressed in your Sunday finest, the cashier will probably think you're a weirdo. Which is a shame, because despite the oodles and oodles of gratuitous fanservice in Freezing, it's actually kind of fun. Assuming, of course, you can accept the fact that the story isn't that well thought out, and there are many aspects of the premise that are hand-waved off with lines like, “Scientists are still trying to figure this out!” and “We're not quite sure how this works yet.”

Although you might assume the title is in reference to the temperature at West Genetics Academy, since everyone's nipples are always especially pert, it actually refers to one of the techniques that males with bonded with special females can perform. In the future, weird alien creatures called Nova have started invading Earth. Nobody quite knows why they're there or where they're from, but they're bad news. Luckily, females with special powers called Pandoras have the ability to fight against them. Genetically modified to use “Stigmatas,” they can call forth unique weapons from thin air, and they can bond with male partners called Limiters, who can then carry out “Freezing” attacks, which immobilize opponents. In order to form that partnership, though, the pair has to go through a “Baptism” which is alluded to so vaguely that it may as well be a euphemism for banging.

Our two main characters are unique in that the guy, Kazuya, can Freeze all by himself, and the girl, Satellizer, a) has a sweet name like Satellizer, b) is insanely powerful and good at fighting, c) refuses to let anyone touch her except Kazuya, and d) is grafted with Stigmatas from Kazuya's dead sister. Inevitably, Kazuya finds himself wanted by two ladies, but he only has eyes for Satellizer. She doesn't get along with a ton of people, though, so the vast majority of the series is taken up by scenes of her fighting with upper classmen. As one might interpolate from the boxset cover, this involves a lot of battles where clothes get blasted off by various weapons and special attacks.

It may not come as a giant shock that some of the Ikki Tousen folk were also involved in Freezing, including director Takashi Watanabe, but aside from the girls-getting-their-clothes-blasted-off-during-battle similarities, the two can't really be compared. Sure, both series use ridiculous premises that allow these gals to even be in these battle scenarios, but to give Freezing partial credit, at least their clothes regenerate once they get blasted off. Not that that stops the girls from bouncing around most of the time.

Despite its over-the-top fanservice, though, Freezing is oddly compelling. Sure, the whole Pandora/Limiter/Nova/Stigmata thing is a little needlessly convoluted and absurd, but the series is also really dark at times. In several instances, we see girls' limbs get brutally torn off, and there's a very Go Nagai-esque scene where girls who've previously been fused into an alien get ejected again, oozing out like nightmares exploding out of a soft melon. But for every episode of dark, grotesque action, there are just as many senseless fillers—there's a pointless episode where all the lead girls are battling for prom queen by posing in revealing outfits. Unlike real proms, though, nobody spent the rest of the night crying in a bathroom stall.

While I was mostly accepting of the fanservice in Freezing, there were a few scenes that I thought really could have tried harder. Yes, I get that fanservice has a pretty low bar to clear when its goals are amusement and titillation, but I'm tired of the cliché where there's some evil girl who licks her lips when she thinks about domination and does the “Oh ho ho!!” laugh. On the upside, for those who think that Freezing has just Too Much Plot and not enough boobies, there are six whole bite-sized OVAs who are almost entirely devoted to naked girls and titties.

Ultimately, I had a good time with Freezing. It's definitely not a series that I'd ever feel the need to watch again, but I didn't mind watching it once. For those who are really into fanservice, Freezing is kind of fun. It's packed with action and it's surprisingly dark at times, and by the time the final conflict was swelling, I found myself needing to know where it would go. [TOP]

Wanting something a little more dudely and a little least breasty, I checked out an early screener we got for the upcoming Mass Effect: Paragon Lost movie. It stars Freddie Prinze Jr., whom if you don't remember from the late 90s, just makes me feel old.

Lumping a film like Mass Effect: Paragon Lost into a catch-all category like “shelf worthy” or “rental shelf” is difficult. Obviously, if you've never played a minute of Mass Effect in your life, your enjoyment of Paragon Lost will likely be very much dampened. Sure, it kind of works as a stand-alone action blockbuster, but it really only works at its full potential as part of the franchise. And in fact, if one were to try to watch it without prior knowledge of the video game series, there'd be a zillion questions, like “Who are these talking alien dudes?” and “Who the Hell is Commander Shepard?” and “Why do we care about some guy named Vega?”

The last question, actually, is kind of valid. Before I started watching the movie, I even thought to myself, “Vega? Really? They made a movie about Vega?” If you dig deep into your memories of Mass Effect 3, you'll remember that at one point, when he's talking to Shepard, he mentions how most of his old crew was obliterated while they were protecting a civilian colony against a Collector attack. Paragon Lost tells that story. I guess it's a little surprising that's the side story that the creators decided to tell, but as part of the greater Mass Effect compendium, it's mildly interesting and it works.

A collaborative effort between EA Games, BioWare, Funimation, and T.O Entertainment, this movie is fairly engaging and it embraces the original vibes of the video games. With slick animation by Production I.G, watching the movie feels very much like playing the games, from the rugged landscapes to the fluid mech animation. There were times when I caught myself thinking, “Man, if only I could get to the top of that rig, that'd be the perfect spot to snipe somebody.” The writing should be commended, too. Even though a lot of the banter between the soldiers feels like it was lifted out of every single war movie ever (like the cheesy quasi-pickup lines thrown at the tough female soldier, and her sarcastic rebuttals, or the ever-present uber-macho one-liners like, “Why don't you grow a pair?” and “Okay, ladies, are you gonna kiss next?”), it works in the context of this movie. I laughed a lot, and it helped to make the movie not feel so serious and drab. One expects video game-level dialogue from a video game-inspired movie, and Paragon Lost delivers exactly that. It's a video game anime, not Malick.

The dub is effective as well. As much as it still makes me laugh to see Freddie Prinze Jr. doing voice work nowadays, he performs well as Vega. In fact, all the actors have an easy rapport with one another, and if I didn't know any better, I'd think they all recorded their lines in a pub somewhere. The only thing I couldn't really take seriously were the Collectors, who've always given me a Saturday morning cartoon villain vibe.

So, the question is, should you buy it? If you're a big Mass Effect fan, yes. That almost goes without saying. I enjoyed this movie, but I really can't imagine why anyone would blind-purchase this if they weren't already fans of the games. The movie is fun, but it's not fun enough that someone would watch it first and be convinced to rush out and start playing all the games. But as far as video game-inspired titles go, Paragon Lost works. I didn't think I'd really ever care about Vega's past, but it's a clever way to work something into the overall canon and still have enough creative rein to design a movie.[TOP]

Thanks for reading, everyone! If you want to continue the discussion, please hop on over to the Talkback forums, so we can butt heads over whether or not you'd let Krauser date your daughter. You can also follow me on Twitter at @ANN_Bamboo. See you next week!

This week's collection is from Josh, who writes:

"Here is my collection thus far. I have been an avid anime/jrpg/manga lover for many MANY years now. Though I haven't been able to finish collecting some of the series that I own, it is my goal to be able to do so in the near future. My favorites out of that entire collection are my Ranma 1/2 DVDs/Manga, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and my Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood collection =D"

Nice collection! And I wish you all the best in reaching your set-finishing goals!

Want to show off your shelves? Please send your jpgs to [email protected] Seriously. Do it. Thanks!

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