New Year, New Shelf Life

by Bamboo Dong,

It's a new year, which seems almost hard to believe. Each day goes by so fast, that I can never seem to catch my breath and appreciate the passing of the seasons. Before I know it, I'll blink and it'll be summer, and I'll wonder where all those months have gone. But, like many people, I always appreciate the chance to start fresh, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this year will bring.

Speaking of new beginnings, though, there are some changes happening to Shelf Life. As of this column, it will be focused entirely on physical releases, starting with a weekly run-down of that week's North American DVD and BD releases, followed by a couple of the same capsule reviews readers are used to.

Welcome to the new Shelf Life!

On Shelves This Week

Dog & Scissors BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $41.99 Right Stuf|$35.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High school boy Kazuhito Harumi is obsessed with reading, especially the works of his favorite author, Shinobu Akiyama. His life changes when he's shot in a cafe by a robber, and he wakes up in the body of a dachshund. Fortunately, he's adopted immediately by Natsuno Kirihime, who is able to hear his thoughts, and just so happens to be the woman he tried to save at the cafe... and the actual Shinobu Akiyama. However, Kazuhito quickly learns that she has a sadistic streak, and enjoys attacking him with a pair of scissors.

Thoughts: You can read my first impressions of the series here, but I was not thrilled with the first few episodes. I found myself uncomfortable with the primary gag of Natsuno going after Kazuhito with scissors. I know it's just fiction, and a cartoon at that, but I couldn't really get past it. Especially since the other characters bordered too much on wacky/quirky for my tastes. However, you can also check out Carl's review of the series, which has more positive things to say about the show's so-bad-it's-kind-of-good antics.
The series is currently available streaming on Crunchyroll and The Anime Network.


Eccentric Family - Complete Collection BD
NIS America - 307 min - Sub - MSRP $64.99
Currently cheapest at: $47.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Humans have lived alongside shape-shifting tanuki and flying tengu in Kyoto for thousands of years. The series primarily follows Yasaburo Shimogamo, a mischievious young tanuki who enjoys shape-shifting into a variety of forms, including high school girls. His actions often get him scolded by his older brother Yaichiro, who wishes his little brother would take life a little more seriously. When he's not getting into trouble, Yasaburo enjoys spending time with his tengu teacher, Professor Akadama, and his human protegee Benten, a powerful magician that belongs to a secret society that boils and eats a tanuki once a year. With the Shimogamo family still struggling to recover from the death of their father, himself killed and eaten in a tanuki hot pot, and an important tanuki election coming up, Yasaburo's life is full of activity and adventure.

Thoughts: Eccentric Family was one of my favorite series that season, and that year. The artwork and animation, courtesy of the talented folks at P.A. Works, is incredible, and the series is both uplifting and melancholic at the same time. While it's difficult to properly describe the series to anyone who hasn't seen it, its blend of whimsy and gravitas made it one of the most emotionally fulfilling shows I saw in 2013. Here's another take on the show, also from Carl Kimlinger.
The series is currently available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Fairy Tail DVD/Blu-ray Collection 3
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $54.98
Currently cheapest at: $31.66 Rakuten

Synopsis: This collection compiles episodes 49-72, which corresponds with the 2013 release of Fairy Tail parts five and six. Or, for those who prefer to recall the series in arcs, encompasses the tail-end of the Fighting Festival arc; the Oración Seis arc, in which Fairy Tail bands together with other guilds to try and defeat the dark guild Oración Seis; and half of the Daphne arc, which introduces a woman named Daphne who claims to have seen a Dragon.

Thoughts: While I've not personally seen Fairy Tail, you can look out Carlo Santos' review of Fairy Tail Part 6, which covers episodes 61-72.
These particular episodes are currently available streaming on Funimation.com and Hulu.

 


Fantastic Detective Labyrinth - Complete Collection DVD
Nozomi/Lucky Penny - 625 min - Sub - MSRP $49.99
Currently cheapest at: $28.78 Rakuten

Synopsis: After Tokyo was destroyed by a massive earthquake, most of its citizens moved to a new capital, Shinto. However, the old city has been experiencing a series of strange murders and supernatural events. The only who's not afraid is Mayuki Hyuga, a boy with powers he doesn't quite fully understand, and a knack for solving mysteries. With support from his butler Seiran Shinano, Mayuki aids the police in cracking the city's cases, all while trying to figure out who he really is.

Thoughts: I've actually never seen this and we've never reviewed it. Enlighten us in the forums: worth it or not?






Gurren Lagann Vol. 3 BD
Aniplex of America - 150 min - Hyb - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $49.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Compiling episodes 11-16, this release follows Team Dai-Gurren as they make their way towards Teppelin, the capital city of the Beastmen. Along the way, they run head-on into Guame and Cytomander, the third and fourth of the Four Divine Generals. In the meantime, Simon is able to reflect on some of the conversations he's had with Kamina, as well as find support with Nia, the daughter of the Spiral King.

Thoughts: For those already familiar with the series, these are the events prior to the time skip, with episode 16 being the recap of the series up until episode 15. Or, for those who've only seen the movies, it's the tail-end of Gurren Lagann the Movie -Childhood's End-, which I reviewed in Shelf Life last year. For a more detailed review of the actual episodes, check out Theron Martin's review of the 2008 Bandai DVD release. Be warned, though, that there are heavy spoilers for anyone who hasn't watched the series until episode 8.
Gurren Lagann is currently available streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.


Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro - The 35th Anniversary Edition DVD
Eastern Star - 100 min - Hyb - MSRP $24.95
Currently cheapest at: $14.58 Rakuten

Synopsis: Famous as Hayao Miyazaki's first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro now celebrates it's 35th birthday with this new release, which includes the 1992 Streamline dub, the 2000 Manga Entertainment dub, the 2000 Family Friendly English dub, the 1980 theatrical subtitles, and all-new translation subtitles. The movie follows our Lupin and Jigen as they're fleeing from the Monte Carlo Casino. During their escape, Lupin realizes that the bills are counterfeits, a discovery that prompts them to head to the source, a small country named Cagliostro. When he gets there, he meets the beautiful princess Clarisse, who is being forced to marry the greasy Count Cagliostro. Together with the help of Goemon and Fujiko, Lupin must find a way to save the girl, all while avoiding deadly traps and assassins, and his nemesis Inspector Zenigata.

Thoughts: The Castle of Cagliostro is a classic, and one well worth adding to you library if you don't already own it. It embraces the very essence of Lupin III, and is one movie that you'll be reaching for again and again.




Non Non Biyori - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.44 Rakuten|$29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: Hotaru Ichijo has lived her whole life in Tokyo, but suddenly finds herself living in a small countryside village where the busses only run every two hours, and the one-room schoolhouse only has five students, herself included. She quickly makes friends with the other students, and soon learns how to enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life, like harvesting wild plants, fishing, and appreciating the scenery around her.

Thoughts: I never finished watching Non Non Biyori, but the few episodes I did watch were charming, funny, and absolutely adorable. It's a fresh take on both your average "cute girls doing fun things" series and your "big city kid moves to the countryside" series, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with the whole series.
The series is currently available streaming on Crunchyroll and The Anime Network.

 


One Piece Collection: Box One - Episodes 1-103 (Amazon Exclusive)(DVD)
Funimation - Hyb - MSRP $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $89.98 Amazon

Synopsis: This Amazon-exlusive release bundles One Piece collections 1 through 4, covering the first 103 episodes of the series, ending halfway through the Alabasta arc.

Thoughts: While we don't have full-length reviews covering those episodes, former Shelf Life-r Erin Finnegan did review collections one, two, and three. If you're eager to watch some of the episodes right now, the series is streaming on Funimation.com and Hulu.








Qwaser of Stigmata - Complete Collection: Seasons 1-2, OVA BD, DVD
Sentai - 925 min - Sub - MSRP $99.98|$79.98
Currently cheapest at: $58.42 Rakuten|$46.73 Rakuten

Synopsis: Previously released on DVD in 2012, Qwaser of Stigmata is now available in a complete collection on either BD or DVD. The series stars teenagers Mafuyu Oribe and Tomo Yamanobe, the latter being the daughter of Mafuyu's adoptive father. After their father disappears, things are further complicated when element-manipulating Adepts called Qwasers start threatening the girls, believing them to know the location of a legendary item that can boost Qwaser powers. They are aided by a few friendly Qwasers, amongst them Alexander Nikolaevitch Hell, the Qwaser of iron, but learn that in order for Qwasers to use their powers, they must consume a sacred liquid provided by their chosen Maria.

Thoughts: For a full review of the series, take a look at the reviews of collection one and two by Theron Martin.
The series is available streaming on The Anime Network.


Shelf Life Reviews

Each week, there will be a couple reviews that retain the same style and format as what the column used to be. This allows a longer look at the titles, but will be solely focused on physical releases, which means there will no longer be streaming reviews. While the upper half of the column will detail releases that are coming out each week, the shows down here may be a few months older, which tends to fluctuate with the contents of the review pile.

Having now watched so much of A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, I've come to really appreciate its blend of mythology-driven storylines, its action scenes, its occasionally dark and disturbing twists, and its smattering of humor. The interactions between Touma and Index alone illustrate most of these points perfectly, providing much of that balance of light and dark. On the one hand, Touma and Index are frequently at the center of a variety of dangerous plots, but they're punctuated with light-hearted moments, like Index's frequent hunger pangs and attempts to chomp on his head.

It helps, too, that the series is pretty good at throwing in a mixture of characters, each calling back to previous arcs (with the Sisters Arc still being my all-time favorite, as I assume it is with many people) either with well-timed flashbacks, or with referential mentions. It makes the franchise a little harder to consume piecemeal, but for those who have been hungrily devouring every episode of anime (not to mention the novels), it's fun to see favorite characters and feel as though you're piecing together a larger puzzle.

With this set of episodes, we get a few more major arcs: the Orsola Aquinas Rescue Arc, the much shorter Tree Diagram Remnant Arc, and the lengthy Daihasei Festival Arc. As with many of the previous episodes, there is plenty to enjoy in each. With my absolute love of everything Misaka, I found the Tree Diagram Remnant Arc to be delightful, especially in the way that it wove in the clones. It is pretty dark though, like much of the series, and features a not insignificant number of puncture wounds and other gory bits (it pales in comparison to a somewhat gruesome injury in the next arc).

I do wish that this arc was expanded to include a couple more episodes, though this is simply personal bias. I don't enjoy the Touma vs the Roman Catholic Church arcs as much, in part because I think the nefariousness of the bad guys is a little overdone. I have a hard time taking seriously a super, magical weapon called the "Stab Sword," and as much as I enjoy seeing all of these plots come around as evil power grabs, the multi-layered ruses get a little exhausting. By the time the characters figure out who's double-crossing who, or what artifact does or doesn't exist, or maybe was or wasn't stolen, I'm ready for the next fight scene. Luckily, those are in abundance, and even though the anime seems to give Toma too many upper hands, it's still fun to see some of the other characters trotting out their best moves.

While I didn't necessarily love the execution of the two Roman Catholic Church arcs, I do think that they're interesting thematically. Much of the series deals with ego and blind belief, whether it's a desire to play god, or the desire to advance an organization's own status and idealogies through God. The events in the Orsola Aquinas Rescue Arc, in particular, are fantastic for this, and we really get to see the downfalls of unquestioning devotion. The final battle is also a blast to watch (with yet another gruesome scene that made me squirm a bit—for those who have seen it, I'm referring to the scene where the nuns shield themselves from the Sheol Fear), and works well to further advance the ruthlessness of the Church.

Overall, I've been having a really good time with this franchise. I find that the more of these episdoes I watch, the more I actually enjoy them. I've gone from being kind of lukewarm about the characters to actively looking forward to the next story. I cannot recommend that anyone watch A Certain Magical Index II without first watching the first series, and even Railgun, but I think you'll find that you'll be quickly sucked into it, like I've been.[TOP]

Over the holidays, I also barreled through an insane amount of Cat's Eye, and I can't wait to gush about it some more.

The first time I saw Cat's Eye, back in 2007, I absolutely loved it. I can only imagine that the nostalgia would be stronger for anyone who saw it in the 80s, or at least even lived through the 80s. For me, it's like an anime version of every 80s movie I've ever loved. I love the character designs and their clothing choices, I love that when the sisters are out doing their Cat's Eye thing, they're always wearing some variety of unitards, and I love how charmingly innocent everything was back then. There's a scene in the second season where Hitomi's fiance spends the night at their place, and they're nervous at the thought of even sleeping in the same room together. (That same episode features a cameo from the Ghostbusters LP, which was released the same year the anime was made.)

After a stint in Europe, trying to track down their missing painter father, Hitomi and her sisters are back in Japan. Their first task is to get rid of a copycat Cat's Eye, who turns out to be an Amazonian Frenchwoman who wants to work together with the girls. Then it's back to business as usual, with their time divided between planning their next heist, dashing from cops, and dispatching anyone who gets in their way. All in unitards, of course, because what else would you wear to lift paintings from a museum.

I mentioned Cat's Eye last week in my Year in Review column as being a classic comeback, and I do hope that people take the chance on this series. Both seasons were re-released last year, and even if you've never heard of the series before, or you have no predisposition towards the 80s, it's absolutely worth checking out. Its format makes it really easy to enjoy random episodes, and even though this series is 30 years old, it's still a really good time. It's campy and it's a little unbelievable at times (Toshi must be really bad at his job), and best of all, it's a dirt cheap way to recapture some of that 80s glory.[TOP]

And of course, shelves:

This week's shelves are from Yammi Reckorrd- Sama:

Thanks for sending in your collection! Want to see your shelves here? Please send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks!


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