Shelf Life
Come At Me, Bro

by Bamboo Dong,

As anyone who knows me or follows my Twitter knows, I am a big Broncos fan. As such, I had a pretty great weekend, and for the first time in 15 years, am actually looking forward to the Super Bowl beyond just seeing it as an entire afternoon of gorging myself on fried foods, grilled meats, cheese dips that don't contain any real cheese in them, and enough chips to demolish an entire cornfield. So basically, I'll still plan on doing the latter, but now the calories will be consumed in passion, instead of just utter lack of self-control. That's acceptable, right?

Welcome to Shelf Life.

OniAi, or as the full title translates, You're My Brother, But That Doesn't Matter as Long as we Have Love!, is at times a well-intentioned parody of how ludicrous these harem rom-coms can be—one scene that jumps out to me is a flashback of archetypally bland leading male Akito in elementary school, where he's surrounded by a gaggle of excited female classmates, including one with ridiculous knockers. But despite the series' wink-nudge use of clichés and vapid female stereotypes, it doesn't save itself from being, well, terrible. Whether a series' laundry list of hackneyed ideas and increasingly absurd character interactions are borne from, "Wouldn't it be ridiculous if…?" doesn't change its outcome or execution.

In its quest to try and make Akito the object of every woman's desires, any possible semblance of story is thrown out the window, resulting instead in a kind of episodic sitcom where every week, Akito just tries his damnedest to dodge the seductions of his sister or roommates/student council members or book editor, and not be raped by the student council president. Half the interactions in their dorm seem to revolve around the girls competing (via swimsuit contests, nursing contests, what have you) for the chance to spend alone time with him, regardless of his own personal objections. Whether or not the girls are ever able to find time to do homework or run errands is a mystery, because they seem to devote their entire existences to bedding Akito. As for Akito, while I'm sure the male viewer in front of the TV is excited at all the panties and nipples, I marvel at the character's scripted patience and tolerance for what is clearly harassment.

Somewhat hilariously, the show does make a half-hearted attempt to reign in its wild beasts every now and again. For every instance that twin sister Akiko tries to convince Akito that her (one-sided) love is wholesome and destined, and that they should have sex immediately, about a quarter of the time, someone asks, "but isn't it legally and ethically wrong to be in love with your brother?" It doesn't stop Akiko, but bless the show for trying to stay balanced. (By the way, there's a "twist" at the end, but it's likewise a flimsy and half-assed attempt to right some of the wrongs in the series.)

For the most part, though, the series peddles more ills than not. Halfway through the series, we're introduced to 12-year-old (and future fiancée to Akito) Arisa. I was relieved that the character wasn't being sexualized, until the show revealed that she has a penchant for removing her clothes while she sleeps, and most of her mid-episode eyecatches are of her panties around her knees.

If you can forgive how meaningless and shallow OniAi is, and how demeaning it is to basically every single character, male or female… then from a pure fan service perspective, I guess the show does what it's supposed to do. Considering the criteria for that is mostly, "show tits" and "show taints," then it's reached its objective. Even the opening animation sequence is mostly just double-entendres that connotate an endless parade of fellatio. The series also has a wide range of fanservice and body types for those who like having a large menu selection, I suppose, although the series is so appallingly poorly written that I wonder if anyone could really pick out the fanservice from that trash heap. Then again, maybe it'd be easier to think, "Yeah! I hope these characters bang!" if it weren't also accompanied with, "Except they're siblings, so maybe not."

By the way, for those who are seriously interested in some pure fanservice, the extras are pretty much just porn. They're largely comprised of shorts that alternate between chibi SD characters cracking jokes, and (half-)naked girls fondling each other, or getting fondled (including the 12-year-old).

Setting aside the fact that the show is about a girl who wants to bang her brother, and all of the women are painted as obsessive, one track-minded dolts, and the male protagonist lives in fear of being molested, OniAi is just not pleasant to watch. The characters are awful, sure, but since there's absolutely zero semblance of storyline, the show also manages to be intensely boring. Either way, you're not really going to win with this show. Maybe if you watch it muted, and turn off the subtitles, OniAi would be okay. [TOP]

Following up OniAi with yet more fanservice, I popped in Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians.

Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians is actually the third season of Ikki Tousen (known also as Battle Vixens). The first season was released by Geneon back in the day, although the license is currently held by Funimation. Media Blasters has the rights for the second season, while both the third and fourth season are held by Funimation.

This is important knowledge mainly because as you watch Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians, you might think, "What happened? I thought this show used to be kind of good. Why is it bad now?" Well, it's bad because production switched from J.C. Staff over to Arms (as of the second season), and because at some point, someone decided that boobs were more interesting than story. Mercifully, for those who were only on board from Day One because of exploding clothes, there's still plenty of that.

If you think back to the first season of Ikki Tousen, you might remember how fun the story was. It was a modern take on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, only instead of feudal lords and provincial clashes, Ikki Tousen was about seven high schools in the Kanto region of Japan duking it out in a massive turf war. All of the fighters are characterized by the sacred stones they wear, each of which contain the spirits of the warriors from the Three Kingdoms. The action was crazy, the fights were fun to watch, and yeah, everyone's clothes exploded on impact. As a guilty pleasure, Ikki Tousen was great. It was basically just fights and boobs, and lots of panty shots.

Now, flash-forward a couple years (to 2008, when the third season was released) and things have changed. Arms, first of all, is pretty great at drawing boobs—they were originally established as Studio Pierrot's division for making adult OVAs, with titles like Kite and Night Shift Nurses. They've since gone on to animate not-porn, but their talents for drawing painstakingly detailed camel toes and nipples have apparently remained. The crotch shots in Great Guardians are as juicy as they are meaty, which is probably what the target demographic wants.

What Great Guardians doesn't have are interesting fight scenes, or actually even many fight scenes at all. The vast majority of the episodes are filler, and involve such silly scenes as the girls punching gigantic sharks, or failing at their part-time jobs. There's also a lot of girl-on-girl molestation that goes on, although aside from questionable scenes, the series is largely devoid of any excessive pining or simpering at men. As much as the show is written for a male audience, and features panty flashes and boobs and ripped clothing every 20 seconds, the women on the show can handle themselves, and are rarely shamed (although that seems to be more prevalent this season than in the first (read: unfortunate girl-on-girl groping scenes); supply and demand, maybe).

What story this season does have is back-loaded into the last four episodes or so, when we learn the true identity of one of the newly introduced female characters, figure out who's behind a series of body takeovers, and watch as the girls work together to tackle a common enemy. Some of the scenes are still pretty tedious—after the third or fourth body takeover, that entire shtick stops being interesting—but at least the story shows forward progress, and the girls have something to do besides just show various parts of their body. In fact, before episode eight or so, this season was squarely in the Perishable pile for me (despite my guilty pleasure love of the first season!), but the efforts of the last few episodes nudged it into a begrudging Rental.

It goes without saying that unless you've seen at least the first season of Ikki Tousen, this third season might not make too much sense (good luck finding the second season). But, I also think that, unless you're a serious diehard fan of all the characters, that this season isn't really worth watching. It doesn't really add to the story, although you do get some interesting scenes with characters like Shimei Ryomou, and a chance to see Housen Ryofu again. In that case, I feel like Great Guardians is worth checking out at least once, but know that you're going to have to wade through five or six episodes worth of filler.

Of course, if you're just on board for the fanservice, then by all means, check out Great Guardians. The fight-related fanservice isn't as good as the first season, but like I said, Arms is really good at boobs and butts, so there's always that.

Overall, as someone who liked Ikki Tousen, I was really let down by this season. There are some good moments, but they're much too few and far between to ever want to watch this season again.[TOP]

Steering things from a female cast of battling vixens to a male cast of muscular superhero dudes, I checked out a release that had been on my list for a while.

I originally watched Zetman while it was streaming on Viz, but could never get into it beyond spurts of a couple episodes at a time. I thought perhaps it was because I was watching it one episode at a time, and that marathoning it would help. If anything, watching the entire series' 13-episode run in one sitting only served to amplify some of the show's narrative problems.

Zetman is based on a manga by Masakazu Katsura, whose name might be familiar for fans of his other works like Video Girl Ai, DNA², and I"s. This particular work is a little grittier than some of his others, which lends itself to a cool aesthetic that's simultaneously grotesque yet seductive, but regardless of the characters' chiseled abs and sharp jawlines, the story just doesn't translate that well into a 13-episode run.

The first few episodes are particularly messy, as they try to set up the differences between the two main characters that will carry on throughout the series. One of them is Jin, an orphan who lives in the slums with an elderly man he calls his grandpa. The other is Kouga, a boy of the same age, who used to play with Jin. After a sloppy series of time skips, we see the two now as men. Whereas Jin's upbringing has made him a champion of right over wrong, Kouga's different background has made him obsessed with the idea of justice, undergoing extensive tests to become an ideal hero. Both are "heroes," but they are vastly different in their idealogies and definitions of justice. Also, both can transform into muscular super-dudes, who reek a special combo of metal and testosterone.

Along the way, of course, the series tries a little too hard to also cram in a half dozen other ideas, including one about Jin's secret identity as a genetically enhanced test tube baby, a secret organization that involves laboratory-created monsters, mad scientists, and an explanation for Zetman that is so hare-brained, characters will literally say, "I don't understand this either."

And yet through it all, Zetman is oddly captivating. It definitely embraces the "train wreck" school of entertainment, wreaking out increasingly terrifying scenes that dare audiences to look away. The series is not only excessively gory in parts, it also seems to have a strong penchant for showing violence and abuse towards women. Some scenes are flat-out repulsive, although the series doesn't shirk away from showing perpetrators as deranged and evil. Even so, there is so much rampant murder and rape that even the most de-sensitized would be hard-pressed to not squirm in discomfort.

While Zetman is hard to put down, it still stands to be much improved. In its efforts to carry out as many story threads as possible, the story gets jumbled along the way, leaving plot holes the size of trucks, and mixed messages on both sides of good and evil. By the time the series careens to a finish, there are so many random threads and conspiracies that it feels like someone is screaming inside your head. It's an interesting show, but perhaps one to be watched moreso for its novelty than anything else.[TOP]

That is it for this week. See you all next week for more releases!

This week's shelves are from Matt, who wrote the following:

"Heya, my name's Matt. Im 19 and currently working as a line cook and studying computer networking. Becuase of this i don't have much time for any anime/manga/books etc. So its always nice to get a good review (or new perspective), making it easier enjoy my time. Thank you for your hard work and thanks for the great column!"

Thanks for your kind words, and kudos on having a great collection!

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

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