Shelf Life
Hellfire and Ice

by Bamboo Dong, Lynzee Lamb, Paul Jensen,

Jump to this week's reviews: Ambition of Oda Nobuna BD, Hozuki's Coolheadedness BD.

On Shelves This Week

Chronicles of the Going Home Club - Complete Series [Premier Edition] BD
NIS America - 288 min - Sub - MSRP $64.99
Currently cheapest at: $47.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: New high school student Natsuki Ando decides that she's going to join the "Going Home Club," which basically means she'll be headed home after the last bell rings. She's therefore very surprised when she learns that there actually is a Going Home Club, which she eventually joins. It turns out, though, that the club members don't do much at all, but they're all very unique in their own way.

Thoughts: To be honest, I only made it seven episodes into the series before giving up. It's not a bad show. It's just very comfortable in the groove that it sets for itself, and doesn't try too hard to break out of it. The characters are fun enough, especially since each one has her own bizarre quirk or backstory (for instance, the super rich girl is baffled by everyday commoner things like soft-serve), but the series doesn't really go anywhere. You can read my impressions of the first seven episodes here. The series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

Gurren Lagann Vol. 5 BD
Aniplex of America - 125 min - Hyb - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $49.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Simon heads out to space to defeat the Anti-Spiral once and for all, and find a way to save Nia. The final battle is here, and Simon must uphold his destiny.

Thoughts: And thus, the last volume is now available on Blu-Ray. It goes without saying that once you've made it this far, you might as well finish it up. If you need the extra push, you can read Theron's review of the finale, which he gave an "A" rating. Or you can check it out for yourself on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

Outbreak Company Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98 | $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $40.29 Rakuten | $35.04 Rakuten

Synopsis: Shinichi thinks he's found his dream job when he applies for a position that requires extensive otaku knowledge. When he gets the job, he's completely unprepared for the reality of the post, which involves acting as a nerd ambassador to the Eldant Empire, a country that lies on the other side of an inter-dimensional portal. His duties involve introducing Japanese pop cultural elements like anime, manga, and video games, but even he can't be prepared for all that lies ahead.

Thoughts: Theron's got a great review of the first six episodes here, if you want some more insight on the series. You can also watch for Paul's review of the boxset next week, or watch the series streaming now on The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Ranma 1/2 Set 5 Special Edition BD, DVD
Viz - 506 min - Hyb - MSRP $54.97 | $44.82
Currently cheapest at: $39.26 Amazon | $27.63 Rakuten

Synopsis: This set covers episodes 93-115 of the series, as per Viz's numbering, and follows more of the crazy hijinks involving Ranma and his cohorts. Ranma must train in the ways of Martial Arts Tea Ceremony to take the place of Sentaro's assigned bride. However, there is more to his bride than Ranma originally expects. Later, Ranma meets a strange old man who's able to turn people into frogs.

Thoughts: While we don't have a review of this particular set yet, Theron's been able to review sets one, two, and three. You can also check out my review of the first set here. To see the show for yourself, you can catch it streaming subbed and dubbed on Viz and Hulu.

Space Dandy Season 1 BD+DVD, Amazon Exclusive BD+DVD, Limited Edition BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98 | $129.98 | $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.39 Amazon | $91.49 Amazon | $40.29 Amazon/Rakuten

Synopsis: Space Dandy is a space hunter who spends his time exploring the far reaches of the galaxy in search of undiscovered alien species. With him is his beat-up vacuum cleaning robot QT and the alien space cat Meow. When the trio aren't looking for new aliens, though, they're bumming around space looking for adventure or knocking back a drink at Boobies.

Thoughts: It's difficult to explain Space Dandy to anyone who hasn't seen it, but all who have generally seem to like it. With rollicking adventure, eye-popping animation, and generous laughs, it's an entertainment experience that's pretty hard to pass up. We have a review of the first six episodes from Carl, but also a wealth of other Space Dandy goodies, like an interview with mech designer Thomas Romain, an interview with key animator Bahi JD, and a look at the many directors of Space Dandy by Mike Toole. Watch the series streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Unbreakable Machine Doll Complete Series BD+DVD, Limited Edition BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98 | $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.42 Rakuten | $40.75 Rakuten

Synopsis: Raishin is a new student at Walpurgis Royal Academy where he plans to study Machinart, a mix of magic and technology. He uses puppetry to control his companion Yaya, his automaton, which participates in battles on his behalf. Raishin isn't just at the academy to study, though. He's on a mission to uncover the individuals responsible for a terrible crime.

Thoughts: Truth be told, I was fairly underwhelmed by the predictability of Unbreakable Machine Doll and found Yaya's obsession to get inside her master's pants thoroughly exhausting, though it seems popular opinion holds it in slightly higher regard—ANN user rankings have it at 7.5 out of 10, although our preview guide reviewers gave it 3s almost the board (Carlo gave it a 1 out of 5). You can decide for yourself on Funimation and Hulu.

Yakitate!! Japan - Part 1 DVD
Nozomi/Lucky Penny - 675 min - Sub - MSRP $49.99
Currently cheapest at: $28.78 Rakuten

Synopsis: Kazuma wants to be the best baker in Japan, and he's got his eyes set on one goal—creating Ja-pan, a national bread for Japan. He decides to train at the bakery chain Pantasia, and soon finds himself in the cutthroat world of bread battles.

Thoughts: It's actually impossible to watch Yakitate!! Japan without getting extremely hungry and wanting to consume every glutenous carb in the world. Still, bread or no bread, this is a series worth checking out. It's charming, it's funny, and for those who like to eat, it's a 2D slice of heaven.

Shelf Life Reviews

This week, we have two new reviews from Paul and Lynzee. Paul is going to start us off with a look at Yet Another Oda Nobunaga series, but this time with ladies.
Oda Nobunaga was a sixteenth-century warlord who attempted to unify Japan through military conquest. As far as I can tell, his efforts earned the ire of some vengeful deity who condemned Nobunaga to be forever depicted in bizarre ways by novelists, game developers, and anime directors. Depending on where you look, the poor guy may be a time traveler, a giant robot pilot, a Pokémon trainer, a girl, or several of the above. By this standard, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna isn't especially far-fetched: all it does is turn Nobunaga into a girl along with the majority of his friends and enemies.

The laws of physics state that no large grouping of anime girls can exist in the absence of a teenage everyman protagonist, and so it is with this series. The guy in question is Yoshiharu, a present-day high school kid who finds himself transported into the show's world with nothing but the clothes on his back and the phone in his pocket. His obsession with strategy games set during the warring states period means he's familiar with every battle Nobuna's destined to fight, which is enough to earn him a place amongst her advisors. His obnoxious attitude, on the other hand, is enough to earn him the nickname Monkey.

What follows is an even mix of romantic comedy and historical fiction, with Monkey using his wealth of game trivia to help Nobuna stay a step ahead of her enemies. The battles and political back-stabbing are probably more interesting for viewers who are familiar with this period of history, but they're still reasonably entertaining if you're an uneducated bumpkin like me. The series has far too many minor characters for its own good, but Monkey and Nobuna are at least a strong pair of leads. There's enough chemistry between them to carry the show whenever the story starts to bog down.

More than anything else, I enjoy the amount of thought that went into the show's alternate history. As Monkey tries to keep Nobuna from making the same mistakes as her real-world counterpart, he starts changing how some events play out. The world gets increasingly less predictable as those changes pile up, making it harder and harder for Monkey to make the right calls. I always enjoy these kinds of time travel conundrums, and it's nice to see a series take its alternate version of history seriously.

Given that it sells itself on the idea of turning historical figures into cute anime girls, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna tends to keep its fanservice on a reasonably tight leash. It features some ridiculous outfits and isn't above making the occasional boob joke, but the show as a whole would seemingly rather be funny than sexy. The gratuitous animated cleavage is there, but it rarely goes so far as to distract from the storyline. Considering that the story is actually worth following, that's a good thing.

It's worth noting that this show is based on a long-running light novel series, which means it has a problem that's all too common amongst single-season adaptations: the last episode isn't much of an ending. Nobuna and friends beat some bad guys and solve some of their immediate problems, but it's obvious that there's more to the story. Heck, there's even a villain who spends half of the series talking trash about Nobuna but never actually gets around to fighting her. Other shows have come to far more frustrating conclusions, but it still feels like the producers are saying, “Go buy the books if you want to know what happens, suckers.” The novels aren't available in the US, so good luck with that.

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna is fun, but it suffers from having to compete with a truckload of similar titles. There are so many other Nobunaga-related shows on the market that it sometimes feels like a new one comes out every season. With that much content on tap, it all starts to blur together after a while. On the other hand, if you're looking for a series that gender-swaps historical figures but still takes its alternate timeline seriously, then this one probably wins by default.
- Paul[TOP]

Last for this week is Lynzee's look at Hozuki's Coolheadedness, an unlikely comedy about bureaucracy in Hell.

Wit Studio's adaptation of Natsumi Eguchi's Hozuki no Reitetsu comedy is very, very pretty and very, very Japanese. This sets a high bar for laughs and viewers who don't have a well-rounded knowledge of Japanese language puns, popular folklore, and older anime series will find themselves spending more time reading the onscreen liner notes than laughing.

The series sets out to do something unique. It takes a popular setting, Hell, and turns it into a relatable bureaucratic institution not unlike the governments of Earth. The stone-faced Hozuki oversees the day-to-day workings of demon minions throughout the 272 Japanese hells. His problems are certifiably mundane but filled with a colorful cast, like the playboy luck dragon Hakutaku from Shangra-La, Momotaro and his animal companions, and playful demon kids Karauri and Nasubi. He tackles issues like smoothing things over with European Hell's Beelzebub, warning Karauri about the risks of working in Mortal Hell with its plentiful female demons, and holding his liquor better than Hakutaku.

The show had potential with its wacky cast of demons doing ordinary things. Unfortunately it's rarely funny, and it's hard to say whether it was merely the cultural barrier at work or all-around poor delivery. Puns and idioms are lost on non-native speakers and other jokes fall on the wayside for anyone not well-versed in the details of Momotaro's adventures or the intricate layouts of Japanese Hell. Anime references are dated, with titles like Time Bokan and Yatterman, although the stars of Robico's My Little Monster do make an appearance (its anime adaptation was also directed by Hiro Kaburaki).

The entire show hinges on the likability of its aloof, capable protagonist. Hozuki is attractive, confident, professional, collects goldfish plant memorabilia, and secretly adores soft animals. It's easy to see why he built a fanbase of female viewers. What Hozuki isn't, though, is engaging. His devotion to all things hellish and his ability to succeed under any circumstances isn't interesting. He essentially has zero flaws. The more bumbling King Enma doesn't play opposite to him enough for their relationship to be funny, and his rivalry with Hakutaku is only lukewarm at best. A slice-of-life show hinges on interesting character interactions, but between references that fly over viewers heads and situations lacking comedic timing or tension, there's nothing there.

There's also an egregious transsexual punchline in episode three that isn't going to sit well with some viewers. Hozuki and Hakutaku met as referees during the Chinese-Japanese Hell goodwill games and to pass the time, they decide to bet on whether the next woman entering the waiting area has a cup size above or below a D. When a demon enters the room, they get in an argument over whether the androgynous individual is male or female. In the end, the demon is revealed to be pre-op trans-female, and the two argue whether that “counts” or not and if it does, that Hakusaku should date her, which he refuses.

There are a few vignettes that manage to land. The Mental Sports Day sequence, especially the Exorcist race imitating Regan's famous stair scene was pretty funny. Any time Hozuki, the idol Peach Maki, and the nekomata journalist Koban are on screen together stands out, too. Maki is less refined than she puts on and Koban's sleazy paparazzi tactics illicit exaggerated reactions out of the usually stoic Hozuki for once.

For an often boring spectacle, Hozuki's Coolheadedness is gorgeous. Kaburaki and the Wit Studio team lovingly recreate traditional sumi-e and ukiyo-e artwork in the series' backgrounds. The artwork of Hokusai is a prominent enough reference that the artist gets a vignette revolving around his work. Despite having all the pieces necessary to make a supernatural slice-of-life comedy, Hozuki's Coolheadedness fails to come together like it should. Its lack of overarching plot means there's nothing to hold viewers attention when the comedy ball is dropped. The learning curve for this show is simply too high to recommend to the majority of viewers.
- Lynzee[TOP]

That's it for this week! Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you next week!

This month's shelves are courtesy of Sarah, who had this to say: "My names Sarah and I started watching anime five years ago when I was at university. It all started with a random amv popping up on my youtube feed as a recommended video which piqued my curiosity and it all sort of escalated from there

It started with DVDs with the original series of FMA being the first anime I bought, and then manga. When I graduated and started working I opted to buy blu-rays instead when avaliable. From there I started buying collectors editions and occasionally buying imports of title from America and Australia not released here in the UK. I then started buying the odd single here and there of opening and ending themes I like and a year ago I started buying figures as well.

So that's pretty much what 's in the pictures.Yeah I suppose it's kind of taken over.​"

Best take over ever! Thanks for sharing!

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