Shelf Life
Battle Girls Gone Wild

by Bamboo Dong,

Happy Presidents' Day, my fellow Americans! And to everyone else, Happy Monday! It also happens to be my birthday, although this year, I'm just using it as an excuse to leave the dishes in the sink until tomorrow. I also used it as an excuse to make myself a giant batch of cupcakes (red velvet cupcakes with a chocolate-coffee-cream cheese frosting). Initially, I was worried about trying to get rid of eighteen cupcakes, but I quickly learned that the easiest place to store such things was in my mouth. Now I'm down to about four. Being a grownup is awesome.

Alright, let's get talking about anime.

Last week, I watched the first half of Shangri-La, and while I was intrigued by some of the aspects of the show—the concept of a carbon index market, the idea of mankind slowly making the move to an artificial Utopia to escape an increasingly toxic nature, a social uprising—I felt mostly bewildered at how cluttered and aimless the series felt. There were lots of cool things to like about the show, but I wasn't sure how they fit together, and I wasn't entirely thrilled about having to follow so many seemingly unconnected strings. Now that I've consumed the second half of the series, I can't say that I'm left with a much better feeling.

First, there are things that I do appreciate. I appreciate that the whole web of mysteries surrounding the magic daggers was resolved, and that we did find out how all the kids (little princess girl allergic to the sun, boomerang girl, soldier boy (and on the side, hacker girl)) relate to one another. The final revelation at the end, especially of the “true” identities of Kuniko and Mikuni, was a cool one, if only for the “Wow!” factor. What I don't appreciate is that towards the end, it increasingly felt like the story was just frantically waving its hands, trying to distract from the fact that it was slowly derailing.

I love “magic” as much as the next person, but when a show gets to the point where it has to rely on voodoo and hoopla to resolve its story lines, it feels like it's grasping at straws. I was okay with three kids having sacred daggers. That was a promise that somehow their lives were interwoven. I was okay with Mikuni being able to telekinetically crush liars. The moment I lost it was when we learn that Atlas, this paragon of clean living and symbol of socioeconomic inequality, is basically this magic pillar that somehow involves buffering the energy of the Earth, and stabilizing some hand-wavey-supernatural thing, and has a creepy magical girl in the middle… who was then cloned, and then… took over kids' bodies, in order to… something? The entire thing is laid out over the course of a couple episodes, but I feel like it's done in such a rush, and done so haphazardly, that it just feels like random story bits shoved into the cracks of a crumbling series. The whole creepy magical child thing is baffling, and while it makes the “Wow!” revelation at the end of the series more “shocking,” I didn't feel like it had a proper origin story or explanation.

It became very apparent to me that Shangri-La has two very distinct faces. There's the more political/socioeconomic face that appeals to fans like me, in which we're wowed by all the scenes involving the carbon market, or citizen uprising; then there's the magical face, where girls writhe in pools of mystery fluid, surrounded by staring eyeballs, and do something with the magical energy faultlines of the Earth. It's not really fair to make the bulk of the series about the former, then seal the deal with the latter, because it feels like a cheap way to create drama and plot twists. Ultimately, I was not a fan. I liked Kuniko a whole lot, and I liked her buddies a whole lot, but that's kind of where my enjoyment of the series ended. If the entire show was just the adventures and exploits of Kuniko and her people, I think it would've made for a much more enjoyable series.[TOP]

Shifting gears entirely, I popped in Sentai's Blu-ray release of Battle Girls – Time Paradox. It is, actually, exactly what you would expect from the cover art and description, and not an ounce more or less. It has girls who do battle, and indeed, there is a paradox. Of time. If you're looking for a semblance of storyline and an emotional payoff, you might be able to milk something quasi-substantial from just watching the first episode (just for the setup; no substance here!), and maybe the last two episodes. I say “quasi-substantial,” but that's in direct comparison to the rest of the series, which is like this weird void where things happen, but nothing is accomplished.

Our lead character is Yoshino Hide, a dumb ditz who literally says out loud, “my hobbies are pop culture and snacks!” so you can tell upfront she's not exactly the most engaging of conversation partners. Her friends call her Hideyoshi, which is a portmanteau of her names, but also the setup for Yet Another Show Featuring Oda Nobunaga. Sort of. Our meat-bun-headed heroine visits a shrine, but is engulfed in a mysterious blue light. Lo, she tumbles into an alternate world where EVERYONE IS A WOMAN (WHAT?) and also important historical figures from Sengoku-era Japan. Nobunaga is a feisty warrior with giant knockers, all of her retainers and trusted commanders wear the scantest of molded armor, and naturally, she takes a liking to Hideyoshi for God knows what reason.

Let's set aside the fact that this alternate world is only populated by hot women wearing minimal clothing. What's actually the most offensive is how blindingly illogical everyone's behavior is. When Hideyoshi plops into this land, she brings her cellphone with her. With it, she shows her newfound companions animated gifs of monkeys dancing around, and plays pop tunes. Somehow, no one thinks she's a witch, or is terrified/fascinated by this device. The only reaction she gets is one of boredom, which is exactly the reaction that NO ONE would have in this scenario. Even more damning is a subsequent scene in which all the villagers in a nearby town are surveying the fire damage wreaked on their land. They've been the victims of a horrible attack, and now all their houses are burnt and all their crops need to be harvested. In comes Hideyoshi, who plays a pop tune on her cell phone, and everyone happily rebuilds the village together with a smile and a cheer. If that's not both idiotic and upsetting, I don't know what is. I know this world exists in a Time Paradox, but the events that transpire throughout the entire series are pure fantasy.

I know that I can't expect a series like Battle Girls – Time Paradox to be a beacon of intelligence and thoughtful storytelling, but one always hopes to find a few gems hidden under the layers of predictable shlock. Sadly, there is none of that in this series. It is 99.9% fluff and nonsense. The characters hardly have conversations of merit, there are rarely confrontations with negative consequences, and because this is an alternate world, it doesn't even follow history. The only story arc to speak of is the quest for a set of Crimson Armor, which gives the characters something to do, but there isn't enough suspense to fool anyone into thinking their actions have any meaning.

It brings me to this. Battle Girls – Time Paradox is what it is. It's a booby fantasy show. The characters are shallow, the action is passable, the conversations are trite, and the story is silly. If you want a fanservice show, then you've got one.[TOP]

Desperately craving something to wash down the taste of Battle Girls, I thought I'd shoot for something lighthearted, and ended up choosing Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts OVA.

While I wasn't in love with the first season of Baka and Test, I did think the premise of the show was cute… if a little outrageous. Basically, all the characters go to a school where they participate in Summoner Wars. This is where they can summon avatars to fight for them, but the strength of the avatars is directly correlated with their test scores in a particular subject. It's kind of a hilarious and fun concept. So, if you're really great at math, then your avatar for the “math” fight is going to be really strong. At this school, though, all the smart kids get an automatic advantage—they're sorted into the best classrooms with the best equipment. Kids in Class A have nice plushy classrooms with laptops and nice furniture, while the kids in Class F (our heroes, naturally) don't have any equipment at all. The only way to get better supplies is to win these wars.

So, this brings us to the OVA Collection. It's half awesome, half not. The first episode is the requisite school festival episode. Our protagonists want to make as much money as possible, so that they can buy supplies for their classroom. In a sense, putting the filler episode in the OVA is brilliant, because this frees up room in the TV series to focus on more story-oriented things. Let's be real here—there's only so much you can accomplish in a two-episode OVA, so it's best to not be too ambitious. With this Baka and Test OVA, the focus is mostly on laughs. We see our favorite characters doing wacky things, and we see the ol' tried-and-true crossdresser gags that seem to be a staple in all anime comedies everywhere.

The second episode, though, brings us back to the familiar Summoner Wars. I'm not so sure that in a two-episode OVA, there's enough time for this. What made the series so entertaining is that these skirmishes are spread out over the course of several episodes. It gives time for the show to set up the students' strategies, such as who has to study for what, who's fighting whom, and surprise attacks. It's also the prime environment for comedy, because there's ample time to set up jokes and gags. By cramming a multi-round summoning war into one episode, not only does it jam too many things into a short runtime, but it also rushes the jokes. Considering Baka and Test is a comedy, it seems silly to skimp on the humor.

As far as OVA additions go, I had a reasonably good time with the Baka and Test OVA collection, but I think I'd rather watch individual episodes of the series before I watched this again. I appreciate that they relegated the filler festival episode to this side story, but I think they were too ambitious in trying to squeeze in one last summoner war. For fans of the series, I think this is worth watching once, but I wouldn't go out of my way to track it down.[TOP]

This week's shelves are from Dan, aka dboypr.

"Dan here, I've been collecting anime and stuff since Y2K. I started mostly with HK dvds as my financial situation was not pleasant but once I graduated and made a career for myself I replaced all my HK dvds with legitimate R1 releases (except the Lupin TV series which I'm planning to replace with discotek releases). I tend to prefer older shows but those are kind of difficult to come by and pretty expensive, most of my collection comes from sales such as Christmas or weekly discounts. I'm not a big manga collector unless the manga is different or has an additional story that is not featured in the anime unless I started reading the manga first which that happens very few times. I also have a video game collection which I included since its kind of tied with anime as most of them are rpgs with anime style characters and the figures that you see are almost all from limited edition video games. I hope you enjoy the pictures, here are my shelves, cheers!"

Very nice collection!

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

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