Shelf Life
Over the Horizon

by Bamboo Dong,

Jump to this week's reviews: Log Horizon collection 2 and A-Channel.

On Shelves This Week

Amagami SS+ Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon

Synopsis: This sequel of Amagami SS follows the events of the first series, and continues to expand on Junichi's relationship with each girl. The anime is an adaptation of the Amagami dating sim for the PlayStation 2, and centers on a high school boy named Junichi Tachibana who once had his heart broken by a girl on Christmas Eve. He eventually gets the chance to go out with several girls from his school in alternate timelines, all of whom give Junichi another chance at finding love again. This is the Blu-ray release of Amagami SS+; the DVD collection was released in 2013, also by Sentai Filmworks.

Thoughts: While I've not personally seen Amagami SS+ or its predecessor, the original season was reviewed by Erin back in 2012, with additional reviews of parts one and two by Theron. Those who want to catch up on the original series before tackling the sequel can check it out streaming right here on ANN, The Anime Network, and Hulu. Amagami SS+ is available streaming on The Anime Network and Hulu.


One Piece - Collection 11 DVD
Funimation - 640 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $20.15 Rakuten

Synopsis: Containing episodes 253-275, collection 11 contains the conclusion of the Water 7 Arc, beginning with Sanji sneaking aboard the Sea Train in pursuit of Robin, and the beginning of the Enies Lobby Arc. This collection compiles the episodes from One Piece Season 4 Part 5 and Season 5 Part 1.

Thoughts: You can read a review of Season 4 Part 5here. If you'd like to check the episodes out first, you can find One Piece streaming on Funimation.com, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.


Shelf Life Reviews

There's a certain joy in watching characters pick apart the minute intricacies of a world that they're living in, even if that world is fake. Or, at the very least, "fake" to the extent that we can't rationally explain how they're living inside a video game, and can only assume that any world other than our own is "fake." With the second half of Log Horizon season one, we get a little more information about the actual Elder Tale world, thanks to a convenient mage character who approaches Shiroe just when the exposition needed it the most. He tells Shiroe that there are many types of magic in the world, not just the spells used in the game, which provides the impetus for future plot twists. It turns out, high-level mages are capable of creating spells so powerful that they can rewrite the rules of the world. Whether that means that the game's code allows for such manipulation, or whether it's introduced as more of a glitch is unclear… and irrelevant. The beauty of Log Horizon is that the "I'm trapped in a game" aspect ceases to really matter by the time the characters accept it as fact. Whether their situation is real or not is not important. They are all in this situation together, and they must make the best of it.

For all the negotiating and finagling that goes on inside Log Horizon, the most uplifting aspect is the actual community-building that we see unfold within the game. Sure, it's neat to see Shiroe's strategies play out in real time. He is, after all, the undisputed main character of the series, to the detriment of the other characters (more on that later). And it's fun to watch characters like the sweet Minori learn the ins and outs of battle strategy, which simultaneously aids in the overall understanding that viewers get of the world. But when it comes down to it, here you have thousands of players—some of whom would probably not profess to having a lot of real-life social interaction skills (and in fact admit to being loners in the real world)—who are working together for the simple goal of making life better for themselves.

It's part of what makes the series so entertaining to watch. You want all of the characters to succeed, whether it's at vanquishing a goblin army, or simply stopping an invasion. When they learn of the risks involved with dying, it adds an emotional stake that resonates with the viewer.

However, there are aspects of these episodes that I felt were weaker than the opening half. Increasingly, Shiroe feels like a Gary Stu, to the point where he basically has godlike powers, has a cluster of women pining after him, and now almost completely dominates the spotlight. Whereas the first half felt like there was a group of main characters, now it feels like there's only one. Everyone else has been reduced to side characters who are there to carry out specific tasks, but no longer really have a presence outside of what's dictated by Shiroe's plans. Akatsuki frets out loud about not being useful any more, and I tend to agree. Even Minori's accomplishments are only defined in relation to what Shiroe has taught her, and her adoration for him and his abilities. The episodes also introduce a love triangle, which feels a little tiresome. While it's only natural that people living in an environment long-term gravitate towards romantic pairings, it feels foolish to have that harem centered around Shiroe. It cheapens the story and swings it towards a much more generic norm.

In spite of the series' progression towards a less interesting cast, the overall experience of Log Horizon is still worth the purchase. I made the mistake many times of trying to watch "just a couple" episodes of the series before I had to be somewhere. I was late every time, because it was so hard to not convince myself, "okay, just one more." It's a difficult series to put down, and although I'm increasingly weary of the Shiroe Show, I am very much excited to see what will happen next. I didn't ever think I'd be this invested in Log Horizon, but it's been a pleasant surprise.[TOP]

Last up was a show that I had honestly kind of forgotten existed until it showed up on my doorstep.

A-Channel first came out in 2011, and even at the outset, it's clear to see what its origins might be. If you guessed that it was adapted from a four-panel comic strip, you'd be correct. It was one of the first projects produced by Studio Gokumi, and it looks fine for what it is. The character designs are pleasant, the animation is pretty good, and the backgrounds are charming. But the problem is that the series itself just doesn't really stand out.

It makes the mistake that many "cute girls doing wacky things" shows do, which is to let itself be pigeonholed into that categorization. By itself, "cute girls doing wacky things" isn't a bad thing... nor should it really even be a thing at all. Some of the greatest anime comedies in the past decade have revolved around a group of characters who just goof around all day and crack jokes at each other's expenses. That is the very core of friendship, and basically the distillation of any group of friends who can shoot the shit all day and not get bored. The problem arises when that is the only defining characteristic of an anime series, and the writers struggle to fill 22 minutes of airtime.

The saving grace of A-Channel is the last couple of episodes, which does a lot to elevate the relationship between two of the main girls—the bubble-headed Run and the short, feisty Toru—into a solid and truly poignant story of friendship and romance(???), although by then it's a little too late. It's never explicitly stated whether their feelings approach romantic or not, but there is plenty enough context for those who want to define it that way (or not). At the very least, it certainly seems like Toru has feelings for Run.

The series largely follows the high school antics of four girls—Toru, Run, and Run's two friends, Yuko and Nagi. Toru is a year behind Run and is intensely jealous of anyone who is too close to her, be it man or woman. The two are inseparable, and have been since elementary school. When Run wanted to apply to a better high school, Toru was there to tutor her. When a friend offered Run a piece of candy, her first instinct was to share it with Toru. It's a relationship that borders on obsession (Toru's tendency towards violence against those who are too close to Run is written as comedy, but honestly is kind of unsettling), although the characters' casual acceptance of it helps to normalize it a bit. As the series progresses, though, we see that there is tenderness behind it. The moments in which we see how much the girls have been there for each other are the best in the series, and when Toru worries about the eventual day when Run graduates, it's enough to put a sentimental pang in your heart.

Unfortunately, there's just not quite enough of these moments. The episodes bleed together and fall back on too many of the same jokes. What could have been a great and subtle thing with Toru and Run is played too often as a one-note gag, and when their relationship does show a more sentimental side, it's often just a taste. The last two episodes are fantastic, but by then, the series is already over. The lasting effect of this is a show that is... mostly pleasant, but kind of a chore to watch. The characters aren't really interesting enough to drive the series, nor are their antics funny or weird enough to push the episodes forward. I can't see myself really wanting to watch it again. For those who are interested in checking it out, though, it is streaming on The Anime Network.[TOP]

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

"Hey! My name is Kyle (I go by Azure-Wind91 on ANN) and I'm a student at Clemson University in SC. Like a lot of people I grew up on Dragon Ball Z and to this day it's still one of my favorite series. I began to branch out at the end of 2008 with season one of Tsubasa and my collection's grown from there. I know it's not as impressive as some other people's that I've seen, but I'm proud of what I've got!"

Impressive!

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


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