Shelf Life School of Rock
by Bamboo Dong,
Nothing this week
High School DxD BD & DVD
Perishable? Maybe? I don't even know.
Dragonball Z: Rock the Dragon Edition DVD
Welcome to Shelf Life.
High school boy Yuki has moved around all his life. He's never been able to make any friends, and he doesn't really want to either. He has a crippling case of social anxiety— just the thought of having to address his classmates makes his face contort into a scary monster, and he feels like he's drowning. Despite his desire to be alone, he inadvertently befriends a happy and bubbly (and fairly irritating) boy named Haru who barges into his life and demands to live with him. Oh, and he claims to be an alien. The two also meet a quiet, surly teen named Natsuki, so-called the "Fishing Prince" because he's been in so many national fishing competitions. Against Natsuki's desires, he's convinced by Yuki and Haru to teach them how to fish, and together, the three of them learn the ways of the fisherman and the seas around their sleepy little town. As Yuki becomes more and more confident with his fishing, he begins to open up. He not only befriends the other two boys, but even gets the courage to speak with girls.
That's Story A.
Story B involves a mysterious Indian man named Akira Agarkar Yamada who's always in the company of his pet duck, Tapioca. For reasons unknown to the audience, he spends most of his time spying on Haru under orders from Defensive Universal Confidential Keepers (Get it? DUCK? Except they literally also wear duck suits.). Despite the obvious discrepancy in age between him and the other boys, he transfers into Yuki's class, and starts joining the boys fishing.
As the series progresses, Story B steps more and more into the spotlight. By the end of the series, we're entrenched in a bizarre alien story that involves a massive fish alien and magic mind-control water that forces people to dance and be merry.
It's not that either Story A or Story B are particularly bad or uninteresting, but that the awkward mix of the two tastes funny sometimes. On one hand, Tsuritama is a touching, coming of age story of a socially inept boy who learns not only how to open up and interact with others, but also to embrace his own strengths and weaknesses and find confidence in himself. On the other hand, Tsuritama is a wacky, madcap story about alien boys and alien fish and the people who chase them. By the time the last couple of episodes roll around, the series is completely unlike that which we started watching (although there is one final fishing scene). We've been aware of aliens and alien-watchers the whole time— Haru and Akira provide those roles throughout the series, and there are plenty of hints regarding the final “showdown” planted throughout the series—but believability is completely thrown out the window in the last few episodes, morphing the show from a semi-educational slice-of-life show to a campy sci-fi romp, complete with bad (?) guys in squeaky rubber suits.
Perhaps the problem is not that Tsuritama blends two stories together. It's simply that it doesn't necessarily blend them in the right ratio, like a PB&J that's sagging with too much sweet jelly, or pasta sauce with too much salt. If Tsuritama wanted to be a show about alien fish and mind-controlling happy water, it could have trotted through Yuki's social anxiety more efficiently, and spent less time teaching us about different lures and fishing lines. If it wanted to be a coming-of-age tale about a boy who finds himself, they could've dialed down the hecticness of the last few episodes.
In any case, Tsuritama is not without its problems, but it's nevertheless satisfying to watch. Yuki grew on me immensely, and I found his story to be inspiring and heartwarming. The other characters… well, I didn't like them quite so much, but they provide colorful contrast to Yuki's straight-forward, dead-pan personality. It's certainly a show that has touches of seriousness and silliness, and if you're one who likes absurdity mashed into your shows, Tsuritama might strike the right balance for you. [TOP]
After the silliness of Tsuritama, I decided I need to take things in a different direction. It ended up being even sillier.
The story takes place at Kuoh Academy, a school populated by super hot chicks (of course). Previously, it was an all-girls academy, but it's since opened its doors to men, so a handful of pervs have taken the opportunity to drink in all the sights. Super perv Issei and his two perv buddies spend their extracurricular hours peeping in the girls' locker rooms, and bemoaning that they've yet to ever lay hands on a real boob.
One day, Issei is randomly asked on a date by a strange girl (this is what a red flag looks like, guys), and after a fun, generic date of shopping, she transforms into a monster and kills him. Luckily, Issei is revived as a demon by heavily-endowed school hottie Rias, and is told that he is now her new pawn. With his new demon life comes some demon powers, and we learn that Issei can transform his hand into some kind of power-blasting weapon, complete with dudely voiceovers that announce his power-ups.
Arguably, the first half of the series is the strongest, as it has the most engaging story line. Rias and the rest of her chess-piece demon cohorts must square off against Fallen Angels who are intent on harvesting the healing powers of a sweet nun girl named Asia. It culminates in a showdown at a church, after which we're awkwardly left with another six episodes to fill. During that time, the series is able to kill some time until another showdown episode, this time with Rias' demon fiance's own gaggle of demon chess pieces.
Story-wise, honestly, High School DxD is pretty fun, even if it's a little on the generic side. The story moves at a fast clip, and although the character interactions make you roll your eyes (Asia becomes the demure but slightly jealous sweetheart to Rias' sexually liberated temptress), the series makes absolutely zero attempt to hide its primary reason for existence, which is basically tits, titties, tittalos, and tittertots.
Fanservice-wise, it is everything—and I mean everything—you could possibly want from a title that has “DxD” in the name. I'm no bust size expert, but I'd wager that the breasts in this show dip no lower than a generous C cup, which I guess means that if you're more of an ass guy, this is not the show for you (though the eye-catches have plenty of ass). All the tits are displayed in their uncensored glory, defying physics as only anime tits can. Despite the frilly bras that the girls are often shown putting on (or taking off), their nipples yearn to burst through their flimsy clothes, just in case at any point you think, “now where are their breasts again? I need some kind of a landmark or something.” Seriously, there are just boobies everywhere. Boobies in the shower, boobies in their shirts, boobies in their bras, boobies in hands, boobies that swing around like a $2 carnival ride, boobies that are dripping with green slime… at some point, one of the villains whips out nipples that elongate into Mike & Ike-sized laser blasters and shoots LIGHT BEAMS from her nips.
Of course, while gratuitous fanservice is par for a show like High School DxD, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the instances of fanservice that I didn't care for so much. In one scene, Asia is gravely wounded and her left breast lolls out of her slip. Perv-master Issei gingerly carries her out of danger and lays her on a pew, but neglects to lift her breast back into her dress. I'm not going to pretend like I can read the minds of anime characters, but I'm actually going to say that I found that uncharacteristic of his character. Issei is a super-perv, but even he would re-clothe the dangling breast of a female companion who was injured, I think. So please, director, time and place. Secondly, this may be a personal preference, but I'm not keen on that ubiquitous anime scene where sentient goo writhes into a woman's nethers. It's honestly kind of gross, and while I don't fault anyone for enjoying that in a fictional work, it kind of squicks me out, because it's kind of the whole, “hey, it's not me, it's these sentient aliens, am I right?” that crosses a weird line with me.
As far as the English dub goes, I really enjoyed Jamie Marchi's performance as Rias. She nails the character just right, lending a softness to someone who is never quite demonic enough to be a demon, and not sexually aggressive enough to be a true seductress. The other actors are reliable in their own roles, but it was Marchi's that I appreciated the most, for not playing Rias as a stereotypical “sexy demon.”
My relationship with fanservice is a complex one. I don't like it when series try to sneak in fanservice where it doesn't belong, but I can embrace a series that doesn't bother pretending it's selling anything else— as long as it has a story that could reasonably stand on its own even if you were to give everyone A-cups and turtlenecks. Using that criteria, I'm not sure that High School DxD is winning any anime Emmys anytime soon, but it isn't boring, and it isn't nonsensical. It has a tendency to hand-waive bits and pieces of the story, but… then again, who's really watching High School DxD for the story.
For what it is, High School DxD is fun and outrageous and certainly doesn't try to take itself seriously. I don't personally feel the burning desire to watch it more times than I already have, but if you're the target demographic for this, and you want yourself some shameless boobie action… this is probably the boob show of the year.[TOP]
For the last title, I want to preface the review by saying that I don't even really want to put it in a category. It doesn't really belong in a category. It is either Shelf Worthy or Perishable depending exactly on who you are.
Literally, if you don't have these memories of being a kid and watching this exact dub of Dragonball Z, you will have zero desire to buy this boxset, for two reasons. One—that nostalgia simply doesn't exist for you. This is purely a nostalgia release. You buy it because this is the version of Dragonball Z that you remember, where the characters yell almost nonsensical phrases at each other, and preach about weird things like staying hydrated. You buy it because you associate this song with yelling, “hang on! I'm watching cartoons!” at your mom while she convinces you to go to King Soopers with her. Not necessarily because it was the best show ever, but because you were too young to know any better.
Two—this really isn't the best purchase for fans who actually like Dragonball Z. The show was re-dubbed and re-released for a reason. This show is like the Totino's Party Pizza version of real pizza, where if you ate it now, you'd probably throw up, but when you were 8, you felt sooooooooooooooo lucky when your mom popped one of those cardboard bad-boys into the microwave. The box instructions told you not to microwave it, but both you and your mom knew better.
Dragonball Z: Rock the Dragon is best as a party pleaser. It belongs playing in the background of a get-together with you and your buddies, who are all now old enough to buy alcohol and appreciate real pizza, and can get legally trashed enough to watch the Ocean dub and have a really fantastic time. Then when you get to the “It's over 9000!!!” line, everyone will whoop and holler, but at the end of the night, you can quietly put the discs away and never touch them again.
At this point in my life, I have probably watched Dragonball Z six times. Maybe seven times. It's not a show that gets better with every viewing. If anything, it dulls your senses a little bit more every single time. On that end, the Ocean dub is actually… kind of nice. It's different. It's not better, but it's different. It's filled with ridiculous lines and references to alternatives other than death, and has guttural screaming that perhaps only had the direction, “just scream louder.” Because it was broadcast at like… 10 AM or something, it was also the most vanilla-soaked edit you could probably have, for a show that involved a lot of dude-punching and territory destruction. It's fascinating as its own creature, but perhaps more so through the hindsight of maturity than a standalone DBZ product.
Before I popped in the first disc, I sort of thought this release would change my life. I was expecting to feel like a kid again. But you know what, time doesn't really improve this kind of thing. It just makes you wish you left those memories on a shelf, forever glazed in a rosy glow of childhood. This is a nostalgia purchase through and through, but be very careful. One too many episodes and you'll ruin those memories forever.[TOP]
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