Shelf Life
Illusions of Grandeur

by Bamboo Dong, Lynzee Lamb, Paul Jensen,

Jump to this week's reviews: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! - Limited Edition BD+DVD and Okamikakushi: Masque of the Wolf BD.

On Shelves This Week

A Certain Magical Index - The Miracle of Endymion BD+DVD
Funimation - 90 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $20.16 Amazon

Synopsis: Shortly before the completion of Academy City's space elevator, Endymion, Touma Kamijo and Index meet a Level 0 street singer named Arisa. The three are enjoying some time together when suddenly, they're attacked by magic-user Stiyl Magnus, who tells them that Arisa may start a war between magicians and scholars.

Thoughts: We don't have any reviews of this movie up yet, but according to user ratings, the movie averages "Very Good." While the story is standalone, prior knowledge of the series will likely make the viewing experience much better. Luckily, most of the reviewers at ANN had reasonably positive things to say about the original series, A Certain Magical Index, and its spinoff, A Certain Scientific Railgun, in case you're wondering whether to take the plunge into the franchise. Has anyone seen the movie? How does it compare to Index, Railgun, or the novels?
If you're keen on checking out the TV series, you can find them streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Hozuki's Coolheadedness - Complete Collection BD | DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98 | $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon | $29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: Hozuki is the bumbling King Enma's right-hand man, so it's his job to make sure that the bureaucratic cogs of Hell are running smoothly, especially since Enma doesn't always seem up to the task. Hozuki is cold and pragmatic, and he's got a mean side that intimidates a lot of the creatures he runs into, but he loves all things adorable, and gardens in his spare time.

Thoughts: Hozuki's Coolheadedness scores points for being original, that's for sure. Slice-of-life shows are a dime a dozen, but very few of them are set in fantastical settings, especially Hell. If you enjoy watching characters go through the paces of governmental life in a surreal setting, this might be right up your alley. Carl gave the first seven episodes an unenthused C-, just below the Preview Guide's mathematic average of 3.3 out of 5. You can watch the series on The Anime Network, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

Pokémon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction DVD
Viz - 90 min - Dub - MSRP $19.97
Currently cheapest at: $12.73 Rakuten

Synopsis: The Heart Diamond that sustains the underground Diamond Domain is falling apart, but the mysterious Diancie who rules the realm isn't yet strong enough to create a new one. The solution? Seeking the help of the Legendary Pokémon Xerneas. But that isn't Diancie's only problem—there are those who are interested in its for its diamond-producing abilities, and who want to awaken the Legendary Pokémon Yveltal. Luckily, Ash and his friends are here to help.

Thoughts: If you missed Cartoon Network's airing of Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction last year, now's your chance to check it out for yourself. Has anyone checked it out? What did you think?

Shelf Life Reviews

One of the great things about having multiple contributors for Shelf Life is the diverse range of opinions. Many of you who have been following this column for several years, through both Erin Finnegan and myself, likely had our tastes pegged to the last giant robot and nip slip. With new contributors, we're able to diversify those opinions, as well as bring new eyes to re-releases, like Lynzee's review of Rose of Versailles last week, and Paul's review of Chunibyo this week. We've got two more pieces from Paul and Lynzee this week, so please enjoy.

First up, Paul's thoughts on the new Chunibyo dub and the limited edition boxset.

Based on its premise alone, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! doesn't sound nearly as noteworthy as it is. It's a comedy about a high school guy who's just trying to fit in after wearing a black trenchcoat and calling himself “Dark Flame Master” throughout middle school. Naturally, he immediately runs into a girl with an eyepatch who ropes him into her own set of epic delusions. What follows is a typical anime romance between an average guy and an unusual girl, but the way the story unfolds makes this show something special. How special is it? Well, apparently special enough to warrant this massive collector's edition.

What impresses me about this series is the amount of thought that it puts into its subject matter. It manages to draw humor out of its characters' delusions without feeling like it's holding them up for mockery. As much as we're invited to laugh at their antics, we're also asked to look back and laugh at the embarrassing parts of our own lives. It's a clever kind of humor that forges a connection between the viewer and the characters without being particularly obvious about it. That work pays off as the show takes a more serious turn later in the season, and the audience's attachment to the characters adds a deeper layer of emotion to a fairly standard teenage love story. Things wrap up almost too neatly in the end, but the show gets away with it by spending eleven and a half episodes making sure that the happy resolution feels earned.

I think I'm at least the third reviewer to rave about this series on ANN, so I'll devote the rest of this review to answering the question of whether or not the collector's edition is worth it. The price of entry for this set is pretty high, but that extra money buys an awful lot of stuff. Along with the discs, the set includes art cards, postcards, stickers, bookmarks, a keychain, a wallet chain, and an eyepatch, all of which are packed into a separate “extras” container. There's also a hardcover booklet containing all manner of interviews and pre-production artwork. Everything fits neatly into a towering monolith of an art box big enough to hold half a dozen standard DVD cases. Some tighter packaging in the swag container could've made the final product a little more compact, but I suppose the sheer monstrosity of the thing adds to its appeal in a way. It certainly stands out on a shelf full of more humble products.

Shelling out for the mega-box is also currently the only way to get you hands on the English dub, which offers strong performances across the board. Margaret McDonald handles Rikka's emotional range nicely. I actually prefer her take on the character, as there's a more palpable difference between the character's chunibyo persona and the awkward teenager hiding underneath it. Brittney Karbowski does a fantastic job as Dekomori, especially in her pivotal argument with Yuta near the end of the series. The script is likely to ruffle a few feathers with its revisions to the show's trademark “vanishment this world” incantation, but the changes are at least understandable. Part of the charm of the original broken English is the notion that the characters are butchering a foreign language in order to sound cool. When the rest of the dialogue is in English, that phrasing becomes far less natural and far more awkward. Cleaning up the grammar lessens the magic a bit, but it preserves the flow of the scene. I probably would've made the same call, but your mileage may vary. Other than that, the dub script stays fairly close to the original dialogue. If you prefer your anime dubbed, this is a pretty darn good one. If not, it's at least worth keeping in mind if you plan on lending your discs out to other people.

On its own merits, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! is shelf worthy regardless of the packaging it comes in. It's smart, it's funny, and it holds up well over repeated viewings. I'm a bit conflicted about the decision to limit the Blu-ray discs and the English dub to the collector's edition, but the big box at least does a respectable job of justifying its price point. If you've got the money and are on the fence, go for it.
- Paul[TOP]

For those who want a little horror and supernatural thrill in their lives, Lynzee's got a review of Okamikakushi - Masque of the Wolf BD.

Konami tapped Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sound novel creator Ryukishi07 and popular character designers Peach Pit to create the supernatural horror game Ōkamikakushi in 2009. The game's staff and its subsequent anime adaptation have the resume to pull off something really creepy. Unfortunately the story elements borrow so heavily from Ryukishi07's well-trodden Higurashi series that it's impossible not to compare the two and Ōkamikakushi doesn't come out ahead despite a few interesting ideas.

The difference between the two series is the exchange of demons for werewolves, significantly less on screen violence, and a cast of shallow characters that never break out of their arranged tropes. Ōkamikakushi has its waifish protagonist, Hiroshi, learning to adjust to his new residence in the small, secluded village of Joga in the countryside. The village is wrapped up in a mysterious, cult-like religion revolving around wolf-gods that may or may not be the town's residents. Each year Joga holds a festival to celebrate the hassaku harvest (a citrus fruit that's like a cross between a grapefruit and an orange). There's an underlying conflict between the residents of the old town and the new town, people are “Wolfed Away,” a town “watch” comprised of men in moving uniforms walk the streets, there's a giant dam, and a subplot involving pharmaceuticals.

Does this sound like Higurashi yet?

If all the obvious similarities are ignored, the show does manage to produce a decent enough mystery, although a lot of questions circle around the meaning behind its own in-story terminology. The character designs alone give away that Nemuru is scythe-wielding wolf-girl killing off raving villagers at night. Proper nouns like “Kamibito,” “Nectar,” “Temptation,” and “the Fallen,” are thrown around to keep viewers enticed, but the show is pretty straight forward about its premise of werewolves attacking people and other werewolves killing them off.

As a fan of Ryukishi07's previous work, I had high expectations for this show. The personalities in Higurashi are grating at times, but the deep back stories and relationship webs make it all worth it. Ōkamikakushi either lost something when he made the jump from game to anime or the source material was weak to start with. Hiroshi never manages to be much of anything outside of a viewer stand-in. He spends the series confused, staring agape at what happens in front of him, or attempting to ignore it all together. He never takes an active role in solving the story's mystery and remains static throughout the show's progression. He isn't interesting to watch regardless of whether he's interacting with the overly affectionate Isuzu, occult fanatic Kaname, or tsundere Nemuru. The female leads all fulfill their described roles with nothing else to contribute except the added bit of either being or not being a werewolf. They each help move the plot forward, but as characters there's nothing else going on.

Peach-Pit's distinguished art style is also very watered down here compared to Zombie-Loan or DearS. Overall, AIC's animation is inoffensive but the series and opening animation veer into overly clean and bright look for what is supposed to be a darker mystery series. Some production values did improve with Sentai Filmwork's Blu-ray release. Namely the rushed subtitle script that included typos in the opening song translation, peppered throughout the series script ,and the DVD product copy text.

Ryukishi07 didn't do well by his fans in this one. The story's recycled elements are too overt and the shallow characters fail to draw out any real moments of sympathy or fear. Watching the show might work as light filler for those still holding bitter feelings about Higurashi's sad state in the West but it won't whet franchise fans' appetite for more.
- Lynzee[TOP]

We'll see you again next week. Thanks for reading!

We're running out of shelf pictures again! Please send photos of your awesome collections, if you haven't already, so that everyone can ogle them in envy. And if you've already sent them in, but they were never featured, please send them again. Emails tend to get lost in the shuffle. Attaching jpgs works the best, as inline images sometimes get eaten up by the mail servers. Thank you!

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