Shelf Life
Breast in Show

by Bamboo Dong,

Yesterday, I listened to holiday music for the first time. I felt a little dirty about it, since it still seems too early for Burl Ives, but I didn't exactly try to change the radio station. With Christmas music, though, comes the annual reminder that there are some songs that should be banned from the radio forever. First and foremost is Paul McCartney's “Wonderful Christmastime,” which has got to be the worst and most repetitive song to ever flow from someone's pen. If there is one song on this planet that can drive me to near-instant rage, it's that song.

But enough of that. Welcome to Shelf Life.

I confess that while I watched Wolf Children, I felt my eyes welling up one or two (or maybe five) times. They weren't really tears of sadness, per se, nor were they tears of joy. It was more like a lack of ability to contain the overwhelming rush of unidentifiable emotions that some scenes brought, ranging from happiness, to nostalgia, to catharsis. At times, I couldn't help but feel anything other than a fervent wish that one particular moment of happiness would last forever… not for my sake, but for the young mother in the film.

The set-up is fantastical, but charming. Young college student Hana is bright and hardworking, but finds her path in life changed when she falls in love with a mysterious half-man, half-wolf. They end up having two children, but shortly after the birth after Hana's second child, the father dies. This leaves Hana to face the pressures of single parenthood, made all the more daunting and impossible because her children can transform freely between human and wolf. Eventually, after facing one too many pressures in the city, she moves to the countryside to raise her family in peace. Together, they navigate necessities like food production, and more complicated tasks like fitting in and growing up. While daughter Yuki is brave and loves her human life, shy little brother Ame is much more timid.

Like any story of parenthood, Wolf Children is as much about letting go control of your children as it is raising them. After years of hardship and small victories, Hana too eventually confronts the stirrings of independence in her children. And after being with her for most of the journey, viewers can't but feel the same stings of heartache and worry. Brilliantly executed is the way the story deftly handles the passage of time—the years blur together, but we're still privy to the highest highs, and lowest lows. It's the perfect illustration of time flying by, and by the time the credits roll, we're left wondering alongside Hana, “where did the time go?” The end of the film left me with a lump in my throat; I felt happy, but lonely, and grateful for the snippets of their lives that I had seen.

For a movie that celebrates nature as much as it celebrates nurture, the rural sceneries and backgrounds are particularly beautiful. They in fact look much more carefully tended to than the character animation, which is a little sloppy in some of the more unimportant scenes. The scenery, though, truly is magnificent, especially when the characters have occasion to leave the confines of town. The skies are dotted with Mamoru Hosoda's trademark fluffy clouds, and forests are so delicately drawn you can practically smell the wet earth. There's one scene in particular, when the children encounter snow for the first time, that is both joyous and exhilarating, thanks in part to appropriate usage of a first-person perspective. CG is used to make the water features (rain, streams, lakes) as shimmery and as liquid as possible, and although it occasionally clashes with the very two-dimensional characters splashing through them, it's a sight to behold on its own.

If I had any issues with the film, it's that at times, the character design verged on hokey. In the effort to make readers as aware as possible of the half-human, half-wolf nature of the father and the two young children, the two merged a little too seamlessly. The result is a bit awkward and bizarre—the wolf children retain their human hairstyles, which begs the question whether bystanders find anything curious about wolves with bishonen locks. A pivotal scene near the end of the movie is rendered a little more impotent because of this; it is exceedingly hard to take a wolf seriously when he's got bangs. I also could have done without one particular scene at the beginning of the film where Hana is about to make out with wolf dad.

Aside from those quibbles, the film is splendid. The voice acting is admirable in either language, with a special shout-out to Colleen Clinkenbeard's Hana, who is able to infuse her character with the pride, gumption, and exhaustion that the role necessitates. I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to fully translate “Sensei” to “Teacher,” because it sounds a little goofy in the dub, but it didn't really take me out of the film.

All in all, I highly recommend Wolf Children. I don't have children, so I can't say for sure, but I think if I was a parent, I would've bawled my eyes out and never left the theater.[TOP]

A little less moving, but nevertheless entertaining was the One Piece movie, Strong World.

One Piece: Strong World has gotten a lot of hype over the past few years because, unlike the nine films preceding it, for which he just provided character designs and story suggestions, it was written by original manga creator Eiichiro Oda himself.

Is it worth all the buzz it's received? Well, I guess it depends on what you typically like to get out of One Piece materials. From a design point of view, it's incredibly fun. Oda has supplied his usual creative flair, inventing animals and humans alike that are almost guaranteed to slap a grin on your face. But storywise, it isn't really that spectacular, and mostly just feels like one really long episode. Not a particularly moving or noteworthy episode, either; just your standard story of good guys versus bad guys, with a couple damsels in distress thrown in.

Luffy and his pals run into the towering and infamous pirate, Golden Lion Shiki. He's got swords for legs, a sidekick that makes fart noises with his shoes, a small fleet of floating islands, and he's got an eye on Nami's navigational skills. And so he kidnaps Nami not once, but twice (and later also Robin), all the while threatening to wipe out East Blue with a giant population of super-evolved, mega-violent animals. In the meantime, our merry gang of hero pirates also need to keep a protective eye on the native inhabitants of one of the islands, whose lives are in danger due to Golden Lion Shiki's nefarious plans to use them as a small-scale example of what will happen to East Blue.

Strong World does a good enough job of juggling such a large cast of characters, though as one might expect, no one really has the opportunity or time to shine. If we're talking straight numbers, Nami gets the most screen time, though she spends about half of that time in peril. Luffy gets a fair amount of screen time as well, though for someone whose many attributes include not conducting electricity, he sure has a strange knack for conducting electricity.

But perhaps the greatest star of all are the many creatures that populate the floating islands of this movie. Oda has an immense talent for creating beasts and man alike, and the premise of the film lends itself perfectly to seeing many. The opening scene alone is almost worth the price of admission—one beefed up mutant animal beats up another, in a battle of strength that's so enormous and ridiculous it becomes immensely funny. And of course, electrical chicken-duck-peacock bird Billy is an instant hit, landing squarely in that crossover of Strange and Cute that Oda is so good at.

For One Piece fans, without a doubt you should check out Strong World. It's “very One Piece,” from the escapades to the crazy villains (although this compliment extends only to Golden Lion Shiki; Fart Shoes is little more than just shtick) to the atmosphere, but it lacks the impact that takes it from Good to Great. Will you have fun watching it? Sure, probably. But as far as the giant world of One Piece goes, it's probably not shooting to the top of anyone's Rewatch pile anytime soon.[TOP]

Last but not least…well, no, scratch that. It's definitely the least. Last, and least, is Maken-Ki, whose back-of-the-box tagline touts, “magic is [the girls'] breast defense.” Because get it? It's their best defense, but also they have giant breasts. The words are similar.

If Maken-Ki! Battling Venus didn't have boobs or butts, no one would pay it any mind. That's because from start to finish, it is a checklist show. From the character relationships to the fanservice used, Maken-Ki is a lazy rehash of anything and everything that's ever been used in a shonen romcom to even a mild degree of success.

Let's start with the characters. Bland Takeru is your everyday high school perv who is super psyched to be attending Tenbi Academy, a formerly all-girls school that just recently opened its doors to boys. He thinks this will help him get some action, and because it's a shonen harem show, he's almost right! Girls start falling for him left and right, blushing at him seductively at every turn, begging for his attention, yet punching him when he gives it. Quick, whatever Takeru's drinking, bottle it up and sell it to teenage boys, cuz damn.

However, things are not all that Takeru expected at his new school. It turns out, Tenbi is a school for magic users!!! The students battle each other every day using powers called “maken.” At first Takeru thinks he doesn't have any powers, but it turns out, he has one of the most powerful magics of all! That soft rustle you just heard is the sound of a thousand panties dropping. But if you think you're going to get a chance with hunky studcakes Takeru, you have a lot of competition. There's the Childhood Friend, the Girl From the Past Who Is His Fiancée Because of Some Dumb Childhood Promise They Made (in the flashback, she says to him, “when we grow up, I'll be your bride!” No deal, sweetie, that's not how it works), the Frenemy Who Hates Him But Who Secretly Looooooooves Him, the Shy Girl Who Loves Him But Is Just So Darned Shy, and like a handful of others. Their conversations are rarely interesting, and usually revolve around a) Takeru or b) fighting (for Takeru). Sometimes they talk about each other's boobs.

And then there's the fanservice in the show, which doesn't even sort of try. Within a minute of the show's opening, Takeru falls and trips onto Childhood Friend, only to discover that he's firmly clutching her boobs. Oh that silly Takeru—watch where you step! And of course there are scenes where she's wrapped in a towel and walks in to ask him something, but then gets mad when he looks at her. And then there's the obligatory bath house scene where the girls squeeze each other's boobs, and the one where all the girls are wearing swim suits and their gelatinous breasts are swinging around so hard you wonder why lycra was even invented at all. There's also that one scene where a girl falls off a tall object and lands with her crotch on Takeru's face. There's also the I'm-taking-this-guy-to-a-lingerie-store-I-hope-he-doesn't-fall-into-the-dressing-room bit. Oh, and at one point they all work at a maid café. If I'm missing anything it's because my eyes were glazed over for about half the show.

As you can tell from the cover alone, with the exception of like, two characters, all of the chicks in the show have RIDICULOUS TITS. We're not just talking size (although size-wise, I'd compare them to a winter melon or a small cat), we're also talking about proportions and lack of anatomical know-how. There are scenes and splash art alike where the girls' nipples are inches away from where any woman's nipples should be. It doesn't matter how big or small your breasts are; nipples can't just migrate wherever they want to. Sometimes the girls' breasts aren't even the same size and differ by one or two cup sizes. I mean, for a show about boobs, you'd think they'd put some extra attention into the boobs. But no, even the animators were like, “F my life” and just willy-nilly slapped on flesh-tone between hard pounds of whisky.

There's a lot of crotch, too, for guys (and girls) who are super into that. Camel toes everywhere. A caravan of camel toes. A buffet of camel toes, even. And there's a lot of butts (although they really take a backseat to the boobs—sorry Butt Guys!), thanks in part to everyone's skirts being about four inches long, and Tenbi Academy being located in a particularly windy area of Japan.

But really, it's sad because if you took away the fanservice from Maken-Ki, you'd walk away with nothing. There is nothing about the series that is remotely unique or novel, not even the SUPER FIGHT SCHOOL premise, which is unorganized and half-assed (unlike better, more creative shows like Baka and Test), and ultimately goes nowhere in the first season. And to add insult to injury, the fanservice isn't even that great. My god, man, if you're going to make a boob show, at least put some thought into the boobs.

So I guess if you're just really hard-up on boob shows, and can't find any of your copies of the dozens of boobs shows that are better than Maken-Ki, I guess you should watch it. Just know that for every pair of tits you see, at least a third of them are drawn wrong.[TOP]

That's it for this week! The column is off next week for Thanksgiving, but will be back the week after that!

This week's shelves are from a lovely gal who sent these pictures in earlier in the year; congrats on your marriage!

"Sooo..I'm not going to be one of those girls who starts out this application by saying: "I've been meaning to send in pictures of my shelves for awhile, but just now got around to it." Yeah... I think what that actually translates to is: "I've been meaning to send in pictures of my shelves for awhile, but first I wanted to get X and Y, plus Z and F. Then my colection will be PERFECT."

I'm a practical kind of gal; I plan to be collecting anime until the day I die. I have over a hundred series on my Amazon wishlist broken into categories like 'Priority', 'Up for Review', and 'Never Gonna Happen'. Therefore, I know I will never have the perfect collection. I will always be collecting more and more; a few pictures can never do that passion justice. But seriously, I am writing this for fun, and I would never hate on anyone else for doing something the love and however the choose to display it.

In the interest of time--I'm getting married in seven hours--I will give you the highlights. What is pictured here is my husband and my collection. Our tiny studio is a shrine to all things nerdy. The only thing not present is our books and manga/manwha. About 1900 and 250 volumes respectively. About 12 posters are in storage too. Serious space issues are really cramping my style. But I'm excited we will be moving into a much bigger place at the end of July. I think I will send in some more photos in a few months to show you where we are at.

Where we are now is pretty good though. Anime and games don't completely rule our lives, but we share our interests openly. That is why our relationship is strong.

I mentioned highlights, didn't I? The internet is a hell of a place to find things. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure my Yuki nendoroid is a bootleg. The first anime I bought was Iria at TowerRecords when I was 13. I got my Canti figure at FAO in NYC when I was 14. All of my boxsets complete, and I've never paid more than 150 for any out of print editions. I'm really lucky when I find things. My holy grail is Welcome to the NHK LE bo set. I went to my first convention this year and won my little Hellsing poster autographed by Victoria Harwood in a trivia contest. My husband is shy but wants to note that he is currently playing XCOMM, Nino Kuni, Last of Us, and Monster Hunter 3DS; this is why the aren't pictured on the shelves."

Want to show off your shelves? Send your jpgs to [email protected] If I haven't featured your shelves yet and it's been a while, send 'em in again!

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