Shelf Life
Kings of Reon

by Bamboo Dong,

I say this every year, but I hate it when Daylight Savings Time ends. I think instead of ending DST in the winter, we should shift it one more hour in the other direction, so we can still have some semblance of sunlight at 5PM. There is nothing more depressing than having it get dark while you're still working.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

My reaction to Yu-sibu, or I couldn't become a hero, so I reluctantly decided to get a job. largely vacillated between two responses—exasperated eye-rolling and reluctant curiosity. When the show was first simulcast, it came right on the tails of The Devil is a Part-Timer!, a silly and endearing comedy about a devil king who has to work at MgRonalds to make ends meet while he's stuck on Earth. Thus when Yu-sibu came out only a few months later, it was hard not to compare them, even though the two really have nothing in common aside from having demons and other magic-users working hourly-wage service jobs.

But while one found a way to keep the joke fresh, the other (Yu-sibu) ran out of steam pretty quickly. There are, after all, only so many stories you can tell about people working at an electronics store, or bagging snacks at LAWSON, even if the electronics run on rechargeable magic power and delivery trucks are powered by dragons.

The premise of the show is not inherently bad—it's actually one of the only things that keeps the series going after it's already spent its comedy fuel. The story revolves a guy named Raul Chaser who originally went to school with the goal of becoming a "hero." Unfortunately for him, someone else killed the Demon King, destroying the Demon Empire and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity. While the outcome was great for humanity, it wasn't great for the Hero Program, which closed its doors, leaving would-be heroes like Raul scrambling for a job. He decides to work at a "magic store" called Reon, which is kind of like a Best Buy, except everything runs on magic, including air conditioners, light bulbs, refrigerators, and what not. He's joined by Fino, the daughter of the slain Demon King, and a variety of archetypes, including a sweet but clumsy girl who doesn't mind that an elderly customer often fondles her ass.

By far, the best thing about the series is the magical world itself, which is a charming twist on real life. When customers have problems with their appliances, our protagonists discover that slimy, slug-esque creatures are sucking up the magic supply. And when competition heats up because a giant retail chain sets up shop in town, we learn that even in the magic world, sweatshop labor is still a key factor keeping costs low. (One of the takeaways from this mini-arc is that there's no replacement for attentive customer service, which is fine, but feels a little anti-subversive.)

In between these bits and pieces, though, is mostly just fanservice. Lots and lots of fanservice. From the giant knockers (and the anime-world-only, breast-cupping clothing) to the ridiculous demon-slaying hero outfits (thongs seem illogical for most daily activities, never mind demon-slaying), every other scene is infused with teenage boy masturbatory material. One scene involves a bewitched air conditioner groping a girl's breasts with dozens of gelatinous spirit hands, only to explode into a shower of sticky white liquid. Another scene has bikini-clad female employees posing for sexy photos in an attempt to sell cameras and kiddie pools, while yet others find creative ways to frame action shots so that it looks like characters are boning. While I'm long past the point where such scenes surprise me, I couldn't help but roll my eyes at some of them. It seems that anime will never run out of different ways to make clothes explode or cover characters' faces with spooge.

With a series like Yu-sibu, though, you can't really distance the show from the fanservice. The two are one and the same. Yu-sibu without fanservice would be a boring, drab story about appliance salespeople, with some fighting sprinkled in. Instead, it's a boring, drab story about appliance salespeople with huge tits who sometimes sweat through their clothes, eat dick-shaped foods, and occasionally get groped by watery blobs. So really, that has to inform your decision about whether or not you want to spend money on this show. On its own, Yu-sibu is mediocre at best, poking at issues in service economies without the introspection necessary to say anything important about them. It's timely, too, considering our own dour job market, but that observation alone doesn't really save it. With the fanservice included, it at least runs the spectrum between ludicrous and/or titillating, depending on what you're trying to get out of it. If I had to give it a grade, it'd probably be a Meh+.[TOP]

Thankfully, there are other things to watch besides Yu-sibu.

If you're not currently watching Parasyte, then you're missing out on one of the best shows of the season. Part scary, part creepy, part funny, and part philosophical, Parasyte is a show that will elicit audible gasps and make you curse having to wait another week for the next episode.

Like many series involving monsters, cannibalism, or both, Parasyte delights in pointing out humanity's hypocrisies. We shun the murder of fellow humans, but look the other way in regards to livestock farming, rampant waste, and bullying. And while we do sometimes engage in altruistic behavior, we're just as likely to swing the other way at the flip of an emotional switch. Us humans may not be well-equipped to examine our own behaviors and social ills, but through the eyes of alien invaders, they're as obvious as cold, hard data points.

Such is the outside perspective we get from Migi, an affable alien parasite that burrows into high school boy Shinichi's arm one night and takes the limb's place. It had originally intended to take over the entire organism, but failed. Now it just lives as a sentient attachment, feeding off the nutrients in Shinichi's bloodstream, and protecting its host from oncoming danger.

Migi is undoubtedly the star of the show. It's through his eyes that we're even able to examine the world around us, and it's a surprisingly thoughtful running narrative that sets the show apart from standard monster fare. He provides every stand-out element in the show, from the dark humor, to the action, to even the exposition. He's simultaneously cute and creepy, sporting humanoid lips and bulging eyes and appendages that wriggle like overstuffed earthworms. When he moves, it's like looking at a tangle of flesh-colored snakes, with sound-effects that are familiar yet alien (fun trivia: they're provided by a teenaged beatboxer). And as icing on the cake, his deadpan delivery is intoned by the fabulously talented Aya Hirano, who is able to infuse an impressive range of emotions into an organism that professes to have none.

It helps that the series is gorgeously animated by the folks at Madhouse, who give every Migi contortion and contraction the attention they deserve. Whether he's tapping away at Shinichi's computer or attacking hostile parasites with blades, Migi absolutely brims with life. Those who enjoy being grossed out will enjoy the other parasites as well, some of whom open up like carnivorous plants, while others melt and drip like wax figures. My personal favorite is when people's heads fan out like sliced fish and you can still see their eyeballs still hanging on.

As the story progresses, we learn that Migi and Shinichi are both inexplicably changing—the former has to help his host survive a brutal incident, sacrificing some of his well-being in the process, while the latter is changing on a deeper, more psychological level. None of the other characters in the show can really articulate what it is about him that's different, but they all sense it. And in that same vein, the narrative is slowly changing as well. While it felt like Shinichi was inadvertently playing second fiddle to Migi in the first few episodes, he's more and more central to the story now. Just like he's taking on aspects of Migi, he's also taking on more and more of the spotlight in the series.

While I am enjoying being able to watch this series while it's simulcasting, the downside is that the cliffhangers are pretty frustrating. It's not a bad thing at all, but it is rough if you're the impatient kind. Episodes five and six both left me yelling at my computer, cursing at the end credits. If ever there was a good time to catch up to a TV show, though, it's now. Things are getting pretty intense, and you'll want to be around as the season moves into its second half.

Parasyte is perfectly delightful to watch both as a grotesque horror thriller, and as an examination of human life. Those who want to play the "humans are the real monsters" game are invited to do so, while those who want to enjoy Parasyte as a good guys vs. bad guys will find just as much to enjoy. Every season, there is a small handful of shows that I look forward to watching every week, and Parasyte is on the top of my list for Fall. If you've been bored with anime lately, this is well worth checking out.[TOP]

Last on my list was something that gave me an indescribable amount of joy.

Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf screams "90s!!!!!!!!!" so loudly, you'll want to dust off your Slayers VHS tapes and dig out your No Fear t-shirt. Based on the video game series (and starring Terry, Andy, Joe, and Geese, with appearances by Mai, Wolfgang Krauser, and others), this made-for-TV special also has character designs by Masami Obari, a long-time industry veteran who's worked on practically everything cool (and less cool: Gravion) since the mid-80s. The Fatal Fury specials are so 90s that in addition to everyone's mom jeans and cut-off jorts (one kid's pants has one mom-jean leg and one jort-leg), it has that classic aesthetic where all the characters' faces have scuffy lines on them. It manages to make Terry look extra badass, which is impressive for a guy who's been wearing trucker hats since he was a child.

Although the DVD itself is just titled "Fatal Fury: Legends of the Hungry Wolf," it contains two OVAs—Legends of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle. The former follows Terry, Andy, and Joe who hope to face off with Geese in the King of Fighters tournament, while the latter is a come-back story about how a little boy named Tony convinces Terry to stop boozing and fight Krauser again.

Both are amazing in the only way that old Fatal Fury TV specials can be. As long as your expectations are low, you'll be okay. They're fun, but they're by no means great. The storylines are simple and straightforward, and even somewhat anticlimactic at times. This is especially true in the first OVA when Terry finally learns a secret special attack from his master. After all the buildup, the whole lesson takes about a minute, in which Terry basically learns a new stance that allows him to draw chi from the earth. It doesn't make for the flashiest of attacks, even when he parlays it into a spinning tornado, but I guess it's better than your standard punching and kicking.

What I did enjoy a lot is that the two OVAs largely feature just Terry, Andy, and Joe (plus the main villain). The biggest obstacle that a lot of fighting game/beat 'em up game adaptations face is their massive cast of characters. With these two, the writers smartly decided to just focus on the main players, with others making only short cameos or appearance. It keeps the story a little more streamlined and lets Terry have a surprising amount of character development. I jested earlier about The New Battle heavily revolving around Terry's drinking problem, but it's actually a pretty inspired bit of writing. Most adaptations of this nature barely let their characters show any weaknesses at all, much less an extended period of insecurity and despair, so it was pretty compelling seeing Terry's journey through his dark period.

For the value, this disc is pretty hard to beat. Discotek has released Hungry Wolf and New Battle on one disc for under 20 bucks. It's not a perfect release—the interlacing problems are pretty distracting at times (I'd be surprised if Fuji hung onto the masters at all) and the disc has a different title than the DVD case. There's also a short section of video on the second OVA that was apparently included as a "bonus" in a prior release, so no dub exists for it, which makes for a bizarre and jarring viewing experience. That having been said, as a relic of the past, the specials are kind of neat to have on hand.

I'm not sure I'd re-watch these OVAs by myself, but they do seem like fun party videos. The stylized character designs and overall campiness let the episodes fall into a magical cross-section of "cool" and "ironically cool," and it's great that someone has re-released them for posterity. The anime hasn't aged that well, but if you're a big fan of Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, or just nostalgia releases in general, this might be a good acquisition.[TOP]

That's it for this week. I'm gonna take a couple weeks off the column; I'll be back in December!

This week's shelves are from Johann:

Awesome collection!

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

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