Shelf Life
The Prize We Sought

by Bamboo Dong,

I realized just a few days ago that Anime Expo was this week, and I was absolutely stunned. I feel like it snuck up on us this year. This also marks the start of a hectic summer convention schedule, with San Diego Comic Con and Otakon just right around the corner. I don't think I'm prepared for any of this!

Flailing aside, if any of y'all are Anime Expo bound, please say hi if you see me! I'd love to meet all of you!

Alright, welcome to Shelf Life.

A couple weeks ago, I opened a package from Right Stuf to find their Litebox release of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. You could not even begin to understand the joy that I felt when I saw it. I first watched this show sometime in the early 2000s, and for several years, it was one of my favorite series. Only the slow passage of time eventually unseated it from my list, not because I no longer liked it, but because it faded from my memory. In any case, I was able to rewatch it last week, and it was delightful.

Some parts of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor have not aged as well as other parts. For instance, the high-waisted, elastic jeans that Tylor rocks when he's out of uniform. They're about as cool these days as those high-waisted panties that Kelly Lynch wears in Roadhouse, except they're also paired with a sweet tank top. Considering the series was made in 1993, too (a mere four years after my precious Roadhouse), it's a little on the sexist side, too. A quarter through the series, the four women aboard Captain Tylor's Soyokaze participate in a beauty pageant. Now, it's not like that doesn't still happen in modern anime, but the difference is that in Tylor, it's more just a product of the times than anything intentional— even during the swimsuit portion, there is no bouncing, there is no jumping, and there are no forced shots of women waggling their butts at the camera. Really, all things considering, Tylor is a lot more progressive than a lot of the series that come out these days.

What has aged incredibly well, and definitely withstood the passage of time, is the message behind The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. The series is just as poignant now as when I first watched it many years ago, and Tylor himself is just as much of an enigma and delight. We're introduced to Justy Ueki Tylor, an underemployed 20 year old who signs up for the United Planets Space Force hoping for an easy life. After he stumbles into, and diffuses, a hostage situation, he's promoted to the captain of the Soyokaze, a ship where all the troublemakers end up. While the top brass are hoping he'll give up after a few days, they're disappointed to see that his recklessness and irresponsibility keep earning him commendations.

There are two main story chunks at play in the series— the larger, overarching plot is that of an impending war with the Raalgon Empire, whom we get to spend a good amount of time with throughout the course of the series. The other is life aboard the Soyokaze, which assembles a delightful cast of characters that become quite endearing as the show progresses. Both blend together well, and like the rest of the crew, we see that Tylor's actions have a certain genius behind them. He never explains himself, but things always work out for the best. Near the end of the series, his superiors use an awkward analogy that refers to him as a heretic monkey, valuable for the way he shakes up the gene pool. We see that his presence is necessary in society as well, shaking up the status quo and forcing those around him to approach life and decision-making differently.

When I was a child, my dad would spin these bedtime fables about a brilliant kid who was nicknamed Stupid by all his friends, because they didn't understand his actions. But as the fable unraveled, I'd learn that Stupid was the smart one all along, and his actions were backed by knowledge and conviction. I'd classify The Irresponsible Captain Tylor as a fable as well, or at least a collection of fables. Tylor may not be the best moral compass, but his life's philosophy is one worth following, and this series is one worth owning.

By the way, for those collectors who are worried about shelf space, this release of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor has managed to fit the entire five-disc series into a DVD case no wider than a standard disc. That's pretty great.[TOP]

Next on my list was another older show, also getting the Litebox treatment from Right Stuf.

Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is a bit of a hidden gem, though it might not be up everyone's alley. I mean, I myself wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to watch it, but since Right Stuf has rereleased the entire series in a Litebox for $29.99, it's as good of a time as any to pick it up. First released in 2001, its strange character designs and laidback pacing actually make it look and feel a bit older than it actually is, but it's a good throwback show for those who are looking for something different in the alien/robot genre.

The series is set in 2070, but you wouldn't be able to tell from just looking at it. People still drive cars, people still can't teleport, and we still don't have computers implanted in our brains. Maybe in that respect, it's the most truthfully mundane vision of the future ever envisioned; if I had to put hard cash on it, I bet 2070 isn't that different from 2013 after all. The big difference in 2070 is that school kids no longer wear uniforms, so when transfer student Muryou rolls up wearing one, everyone thinks he's some kind of weirdo. That's saying a lot, considering that just the previous day, gigantic alien-things appeared in town. But as series main protagonist Hajime observes about Muryou, “He's even stranger than the aliens.”

In fact, everyone seems to be relatively calm about the fact that humongous floating entities have appeared over Tokyo— at least those from an older suburb of the city. (All the non-natives are getting the hell out of Dodge.) It turns out, many of the student council members at Hajime's middle school are in on the secret, including Student Vice President Nayuta, who... actually transforms into this giant flying monster and fights the aliens. As the series progresses, Hajime discovers that the school, the student council, and many of the folks in town are key components of the Galactic Federation defense department. There's a lot of messy politics involved—intergalactic diplomacy, alien wars, super powers, and all sorts of crazy business. Bless the townsfolk, though—considering what's going on, everyone is super plucky and chill. There's probably more stress at the school about the upcoming cultural festival than the aliens, which gives the series an understated slice-of-life vibe more so than an action or supernatural vibe.

Shingu is a cute little show, even if it strays a little close to the boring side. The show is a lot more about the kids' lives and this slow unveiling of all the intergalactic politics than it is about the aliens. As far as alien fights go, Shingu has some of the dullest. Watching Nayuta-as-Shingu fight monsters is like watching Sock 'Em Boppers in slow motion, and if what you're looking for is crazy, intense fight scenes, this show is not for you.

This re-release contains both the Japanese language track (with subtitles) and Right Stuf's original dub. It's a serviceable dub, although the scripts plays a little fast and loose with the translations sometimes. I eventually had to turn it off, though— Billy Timoney (credited as Billy Regan)'s Hajime sounds like Mickey Mouse, and once I made the connection, I could no longer listen to it. Everyone else does a reasonable job, though, and if you can turn off the little voice in your head that keep chiming in with, “Haha! Thanks Goofy!” you'll likely like the dub just fine. Overall, this is a quaint little title, and although I don't think it's the greatest show on Earth, it's a neat, underrated little piece of entertainment.[TOP]

I closed out my week by watching the first part of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan.

I'll be upfront here—I have a tendency to approach any and all yokai shows with a bit of trepidation. I'm mostly just kind of sick of traditional Japanese monsters, be they good or bad. But, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan was delightful. Maybe it was the latent fangirl inside of me that thought that Rikuo (in his yokai form, naturally) was the coolest thing in the world since buttered toast, but I had a lot more fun watching these 13 episodes than I ever thought possible. It helps that Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan does a great job pacing out its action scenes, and nothing feels extraneous. All of the multi-episode arcs are tightly written, and there's no room left over for empty shonen posturing or power-ups. Instead, when there is down time in the show, we get some solid flashback scenes, including a good look at Gyuki's backstory and the story of his allegiance to the Nura clan.

The only thing that feels a little out of place in the series is how adamantly Rikuo (who is only a quarter yokai) insists on living his life as a human in the first several episodes. I get it, I really do. The kid is three-quarters human, and just wants to hang out with his human buddies, and flirt with the cute human girl in his class. He doesn't like that he was born into this yokai family, destined to become the Third Head of the clan. But then he transforms a few times, and suddenly is super gung-ho about taking his rightful place as the head of the clan. This is fine, but I kind of wish the series had spent less time on the “I don't want to be a yokai!” bit. It's just not as interestingly written, and it really does feel like Rikuo changed his mind at the drop of a hat.

In any case, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is actually very entertaining. I certainly have some problems with it—like I said, I didn't particularly care for Rikuo's rapid change of mind, and I think the series is being a little too half-assed with the way it's using Yura, a talented onmyoji who starts hanging out with Rikuo's crew. But other than those points, the show is a ton of fun. It's a little less frantic and less fight-oriented than a lot of other adaptations that have come out of Weekly Shonen Jump manga, but it still has a lot for action fans, as well as those who like their shows a little more supernatural. I'm looking forward to seeing the second half of this season.[TOP]

That's it for this week! Tune in this week for some scintillating convention coverage, and next week we'll be finishing out the spring simulcast season. Yee-haw!

This week's shelves come to us via Theo, from Germany.

How could I not instantly feature his shelves when he also sent me this picture of a 65cm (25") pike that he caught?

He wrote: "Greetings from Germany! I really enjoy taking my daily dose of Anime-Input on your site. :3 Here you got a pic of my collection. I came to specialize on collecting Manga only. Except Petit Cossette, this show was just too awesome! The nice guy on the right is called Ebisu - the god of fishermen. As a hobby-angler (hope this means the same in english as in german?) I just had to buy him and he really brought me the big ones. ;D"

Indeed, that fish is a beauty!

Want to show off your shelves (and your catches? And pets? And what you had for dinner last night?)? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks!

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