Shelf Life
Cake Boss

by Bamboo Dong, Jun 17th 2013

I'm all done moving! And despite carefully labeling every single box, I still don't know where any of my stuff is. Isn't it about time we invented Stuff Teleporters? I'd gladly be in debt for the rest of my life if it meant never having to pack or unpack ever again.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

The Everyday Tales of a Cat God is cute and silly, and although most of the series is fluffy entertainment, it's got a surprising amount of heart as well. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and are mostly concentrated on the one human character, Yuzu, who ends up being one of the few characters in the series that gets a backstory. Yuzu comes from a long line of antique dealers who have an impeccable eye for appraising old timey ceramics and spotting counterfeits. If she were the main protagonist, she could probably star in her own show about a wunderkind appraiser who has an emotional connection with pottery. Alas, the true star of the series, and the titular “Cat God” in the series name is the rambunctious Mayu. She's been banished to Earth by her parents as punishment for her gambling problems, and since then, she's lived happily and lazily under the same roof as Yuzu. Turns out, there are all sorts of gods around town and they all hang out together, so we get a whole smorgasbord of gods, ranging from the God of Poverty, to the Goddess of Cherry Blossoms. As you might expect, they get into all sorts of fun little adventures.

As one might expect from a series that bills itself as a comedy about a lazy Cat God, the show is fun and peppy, if not exactly groundbreaking. Some of the episodes are better than others, and while I personally enjoyed the more serious ones about Yuzu and her painful past, and her love for antiques, I could also see how those would turn off some viewers. I liked some of the bittersweetness that they brought, but they're definitely different from the god-oriented episodes and don't necessarily mesh all that well with the contents of the series. At the same time, out of the large cast, Yuzu is one of the only characters that gets some development, although one could argue that her talent for identifying antiques isn't really the most fascinating of story elements.

What the series lacks in riveting storytelling, it makes up for with cuteness. This series is pretty darned cute, but not obnoxiously so. It has just the right amounts of quirkiness and fan-baiting that make it a fun way to kill some time during a weekend. As a lover of all things animal-shaped, I also enjoyed one of the gods' giant, nubby anteater-looking critters. Which is to say, if you like Cute Things, you'll likely be able to find something enjoyable in this series, regardless of what target demographic you generally reside in. And yes, there's a beach episode, but it plays out unexpectedly and with good humor, which I appreciated.

As usual, NIS America gives this title wonderful treatment. The box, like all their art boxes, is incredibly sturdy, and the hardcover artbook inside is charming and wonderfully laid out. I don't necessarily think that the all-star premium edition treatment is needed for a title like The Everyday Tales of a Cat God, but for those fans who do really love this series, this is a beautiful release. I'm not exactly dying to rewatch this series again anytime soon, but I had a good time with it, and I could see this show being a good title to watch with friends or an anime club.[TOP]

Speaking of rewatchable titles, I was pleased to receive the second half of The Rose of Versailles, and found myself absolutely captivated.

Containing the last twenty episodes of The Rose of Versailles, this set of episodes focuses largely on the political climate and turmoil leading up to the French Revolution. While the first half of the series patiently set up the court drama at Versailles surrounding Marie Antoinette (and cemented our collective lady- and man-crushes on Oscar), the second half shows the fallout. We see the growing unhappiness and restlessness with both the working class and the nobility, and we see how that trickles through the French people, even down to Oscar and her new troop mates. It's a bit of a departure from the Marie-oriented first half of the series, focusing more on the historical aspects of the story, and finally settling onto Oscar's love life, which feels a little more rushed than I would've liked.

I actually found that this second half breezed by much more quickly than the first half. As a big fan of historical fiction, I found more personal enjoyment in seeing Robespierre trying to rally the masses than watching Marie Antoinette engaged in cat fights. I fully understand and appreciate the importance of the latter— and it does a great job of coloring Marie as really just a naïve, ignorant teenager—but the former is more up my alley. From the Tennis Court Agreement to the Storming of the Bastille, these depictions of critical historical events through the eyes of various characters are absolutely riveting, and I found the series hard to put down for the night. While I did love that the series shifted the focus more to the geopolitical happenings leading up to the revolution, I wish that they continued to put Marie more in the forefront. Seeing her reactions to the events would've kept the thread from the first half of the series more consistent, rather than relegating her to the backseat. By the time the royal family was tried and sentenced to death, she had faded to an endnote.

Of course, I did enjoy having more time with Oscar, but I didn't love her last character arc. I know that The Rose of Versailles is as much of a romance as it is a historical drama, and I'm sure fans of the series will disagree with me about this, but I didn't particularly care for the Oscar et Andre narrative tacked onto the ending. Some of my favorite Oscar bits came from her previous interactions with Axel von Fersen, and I guess I couldn't have cared less if she ever realized Andre's love at all. We have a 40-episode series that, for the most part, features Oscar as less of an active participant than a conduit for history and storytelling, that I'm not sure I really needed the romance at the end. Damn it, though, if the scene with Oscar at the Bastille wasn't the greatest thing in the world.

In all, I absolutely adored the experience of finally watching The Rose of Versailles. Having heard so much about it for so many years, I had a lot of preconceptions going into it, but I loved the vast majority of it. There were moments that I found a little cheesy— after all, this was made in an era when it probably wasn't that outrageously silly to have a final slideshow— but the series is smartly written and the characters are compelling. I strongly recommend that everyone check out this classic.[TOP]

Last but not least, I checked out another Part Two… of sorts. Only it didn't really make sense until I watched Part 1.5?

Here's the annoying thing about Darker than Black. They made a second season, but there's a lot about some of the returning characters that don't make sense until you've seen the OVAs…which they released after the second season. So when you're watching it in the order in which the episodes are released, you think to yourself, “What the hell happened to Hei? He looks terrible.” It's a little unsettling, because you feel like you accidentally popped in the wrong disc, until you just kind of suck it up and realize that while the timeline is linear, and some of the characters have returned, it just feels like a whole new beast. Then you watch the OVAs, which take place sometime between seasons one and two, and then you realize, “Oh…” I guess I'd recommend watching the OVAs first. There are bits and pieces that won't make sense, having not seen the second season first, but it just flows better in this order. It feels more like a primer, and less like an afterthought.

Anyway, that all having been said, I actually enjoyed Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor (which I keep unfortunately wanting to call War on Geminar). I found it to be a little more involving and exciting than the first season, even though the primary character is a little lackluster. Even though Hei and some others (and squirrel-version M.A.O) are in this series and provide plenty of action sequences (with the same dumb-as-ever Contractor obligations), it mostly focuses on a gal named Suou. Her twin brother Shion is a Contractor, but is locked up and kept a secret. Meanwhile, her best friend turns into a Contractor, and then everything kind of falls apart. Suou gets mistaken for her brother, ends up on the run, gets her own Contractor powers, and becomes buddies with Hei, who's looking for Yin. Where's Yin? Oh yeah, it's in the OVAs.

Overall, I like the simplicity of this season a lot. It's easy to watch. Everything flows in one clean line, and it's fun and exciting, and you don't have to expend any brain energy enjoying it. Part of it is thanks in part to Suou, who is kind of a non-character, in that she exists and is the main protagonist, but doesn't really have any personality or memorable qualities. She is the cart on which the story pieces are assembled, and once you've given her a push, away she goes. It's the easiest kind of entertainment to watch, and although I'm not going to pretend that this is spectacular storytelling, it infinitely consumable. I think it was a really smart call adding her to the mix, because it adds a little flavor to Hei's arc and gives a slightly different perspective.

I've never been a giant fan of Darker than Black, although I enjoy it just fine. It's a neat little show, and the fight scenes are fun to watch, but I could never take the Contractors seriously. I thought some of the payments were just flat-out stupid. I'm all for something dramatic and terrifying like having to cut yourself every time you use a power, but when you've got a guy who needs to eat a taco whenever he wants to fight someone, that's just ridiculous. Do the Contractors with those kinds of payments have to provide their own tacos, I wonder? Or can they spirit them using their powers? If it was the former, I'd make sure all my fights occurred around food establishments, because there's nothing worse than finding yourself in a grueling death match and having to pull out soggy food from your rucksack. For the same reasons, I can't really get into the second season, although I did find it successful at keeping me occupied for an entire afternoon. I think that if you enjoyed the first season, that you'll definitely enjoy the second one, but I'd strongly advocate watching the OVAs first.[TOP]

Alright, that's my time. My screener pile is running low, so we'll have a mid-month Stream next week!

This week's shelves are from Angel:

"My name is Angel Mendez (a.k.a. angelmcazares). I began collecting anime since early 2010. My collection is relatively small because I am very selective about what I buy. I also have some U.S. cartoons and movies, but my main focus now is adding more anime items to my collection. I hope you enoy these pics of my humble collection."




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