Shelf Life Spirits Away
by Bamboo Dong, Gabriella Ekens, Lynzee Lamb,
I'd like to welcome Gabriella Ekens to the Shelf Life team! I'm very excited to have her on board, as her writing and analysis about anime is some of the best I've ever had the pleasure to read. You can read her Winter 2015 daily streaming reviews of Maria the Virgin Witch, GARO THE ANIMATION, and Yurikuma Arashi. She'll be replacing Lynzee Lamb as a contributor, but you can still follow Lynzee on her column, The List, as well as the Interest feed.
Jump to this week's reviews: Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods Complete Collection BD, You're Being Summoned, Azazel Complete Series DVD.
On Shelves This Week
Armitage III - The Complete Saga DVD
Funimation - 317 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.26 Rakuten
Synopsis: This collection includes the 1995 Armitage III OVAs, as well as the compilation Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, and the sequel Armitage: Dual-Matrix. Older fans may recall Poly-Matrix fondly for its surprisingly star-stuffed dub cast, including Elizabeth Berkley as Naomi Armitage, Kiefer Sutherland as Ross Sylibus, and Bryan Cranston as Eddie Barrows (Juliette Lewis plays Naomi in Dual-Matrix). The original follows Detective Sylibus as he tries to uncover the secrets behind a high-profile murder. He's partnered with Armitage, a beautiful female cop who turns out to be an android.
Thoughts: I remembered liking the Armitage franchise, and lo and behold, I managed to dig up my old reviews of the OVAs and Dual-Matrix. I can't speak for how my tastes may have changed over 13 years, but I still have fond memories of both. To see for yourself, all the OVAs and movies are streaming dubbed and subbed on Funimation and Hulu.
Place to Place Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon
Synopsis: Best friends Io and Tsumiki couldn't be more different. Io is tall and easygoing, while Tsumiki is short, serious, and quick tempered. Tsumiki begins to develop feelings for Io, but isn't entirely sure exactly what her feelings are, and whether he feels the same.
Thoughts: This is the Blu-ray release of Place to Place, which was released on DVD by Sentai back in 2013. We'll have a review for you next week, but in the meantime, if you want to watch it for yourself, it's streaming on The Anime Network and Hulu.
Pokémon: Black & White: Adventures in Unova - Set 2 DVD
Viz - 530 min - Dub - MSRP $26.95
Currently cheapest at: $14.41 Amazon
Synopsis: Episodes 26 to 45. Ash returns home to the Kanto region along with Iris and Cilan. They embark on a cruise through the Decolore Islands, and along the way, meet new friends and encounter new challenges, including Team Rocket. Later, they visit Pallet Town to see their family and friends once again.
Thoughts: While Hulu is missing the Black & White seasons, they actually do have a large collection of Pokemon episodes online, should you want to get a quick Pokemon fix. You can check out the first half of Season 15, Black & White: Rival Destinies (Adventures in Unova is the following season) on Pokemon.com.
School Rumble - Season 1 + OVA [S.A.V.E. edition] DVD
Funimation - 675 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.26 Rakuten
School Rumble - 2nd Semester [S.A.V.E. edition] DVD
Funimation - 610 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.26 Rakuten
Synopsis: With the new school year just beginning, high schooler Tenma Tsukamoto is excited to spend more time with her crush, the aloof Karasuma. Meanwhile, she's caught the eye of school delinquent Kenji Harima, who's having as hard of a time confessing his love to Tenma, as she's having with Karasuma.
Thoughts: We've got plenty of reviews from when the series was first released stateside in 2007 and 2008. Here's two takes on volume 1, 2, 3, 4, and somehow 6. Meanwhile, here's Theron's review for the OVAs, and Carl's review for part 1 of the second season. You can watch the series streaming on Funimation and Hulu
Student Council's Discretion Season 1 BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98 | $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon, $29.20 Rakuten
Synopsis: Ken Sugisaki is the only male representative of Hekiyo Academy's Student Council, whose members are elected by popularity contests. In fact, Ken is the only representative selected based on academic scores, so it falls to him to inform the student body of the activities and achievements of the Student Council. But as a fan of dating sims who also considers his councilmates his harem, things might just get out of control.
Thoughts: Fittingly, Student Council's Discretion is directed by Takuya Satō, who also led Armitage III and Armitage III: Poly-Matrix. He also directed Steins;Gate, Selector Infected Wixoss, and NieA_7. The rest of the production crew is rounded out by several noted veterans, including series composer Jukki Hanada, who also wrote the scripts for series like Beyond the Boundary, KanColle, Love Live! School idol project, Steins;Gate, and Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!. Incidentally, popular opinion on ANN ranks the series pretty high, with an average user rating of 7.3. We'll have a review for you in two weeks. If you want to watch it now, it's streaming on The Anime Network and Hulu.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works - Box 1 Import BD
Aniplex of America - 480 min - Sub - MSRP $498.98
Currently cheapest at: $413.98 (USA) Right Stuf
Synopsis: It's been fifteen years since the last Holy Grail War, and the mages are gathering once again to summon their Servants. When Rin Tohsaka's battles cross Shirou Emiya's path, he finds himself drawn into the war with his Servant, Saber.
Thoughts: While Unlimited Blade Works is fine to watch on its own, there are several ways to approach the Fate franchise. Personally, I think watching Fate/Zero first helps to place the events of this series (even though jumping into Fate/Zero cold is also a little daunting without prior knowledge of the franchise), although many will tell you that it's best to read the visual novel in its entirety first (available for purchase in Japanese with a fan patch that translates it into English). The choice is yours. Visually, it's absolutely beautiful and stunning, and those who appreciated the battles of F/Z will be riveted with the scenes in UBW. You can check out Gabriella's in-depth week-by-week analysis of Unlimited Blade Works starting here, or check out Nick's review of the series here. You can watch the series streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll.
Shelf Life Reviews
Gingitsune Complete Collection BD
Nothing this week
You're Being Summoned, Azazel
I'm not usually into slice-of-life. These types of anime tend to bore me due to their lackadaisical pacing and weak overarching narrative. With this in mind, it's a triumph that Gingitsune – a show that has both of these things – won me over, blossoming from its generic premise into a solidly enjoyable twelve episodes.
Gingitsune doesn't actually have a lot of its title character, Gintaro. He mostly appears to have small moments in other people's episodes, but the strong relationship between Makoto and him shines through anyways. Makoto is a good character herself, a bit more assertive and reflective than the typical slice-of-life lead.
Episodes are mostly self-contained, depicting small adventures or steps in a character's growth. In some, Makoto helps her friends with their troubles; in others, neighboring heralds. Her first adventure sees her befriending two of her schoolmates, Yumi and Miwako. At first they don't get along. Yumi is brash and thuggish, while Miwako is refined and stifled. Makoto, as a wallflower compared to them, feels overwhelmed by both. However, she manages to bring the two girls together to form a lasting friendship that carries much of the series.
Later episodes center around Satoru, the stoic young man who comes to reside at Makoto's family shrine. At first he seems like a an angry brooder – one of those Batman wannabes that have been infecting fiction like a plague lately – but he turns out to be a pleasant aversion of the tired trope. In actuality, he has a rough home life, and the experience has given him trouble opening up to people. His only friend growing up was Haru, his own shrine's bratty young fox herald. Through his encounters with Makato and her friends, Satoru becomes more social, embraces his passion for kendo, and begins to heal.
While the human character designs are simple, they manage to be distinctive. My best are Yumi and Hiwako's for having slightly more realistic female body types than the average woman in anime. The heralds' designs range from cute-cute to grotesque-cute, but are uniformly visually interesting. My favorites are Haru and the twin lion dogs who guard Shoubai Grand Shrine. Haru is the most entertaining herald as a bratty, 80-year-old child in a kitsune's body.
Sentai's release isn't dubbed, but that's almost unnecessary considering the degree to which Gingitsune is rooted in Japanese culture and its niche appeal.
Gingitsune delivers in many ways. It's a calming, feel-good slice of life that also teaches its audience about modern Shinto practices. The character work is simple but resonant, and while the jokes are gentle, they usually land. (The one exception to this is an extended sequence in episode 11 where Makoto is molested by an older man. It's played off as a joke while being wholly unfunny. This moment exists as an uncomfortable blemish on an otherwise lady-friendly show.) Some plot threads are never expanded upon – for example, the fate of Ginjiro's former partner, Kinjiro – but they're not very important. The manga is still ongoing, so presumably they're addressed there. Overall, if you like shows like Natsume's Book of Friends, Hanasaku Iroha, or Polar Bear Café, Gingitsune might be for you.
Rounding out this week of reviews is Lynzee's thoughts on You're Being Summoned, Azazel.
The demon agency backdrop is quickly abandoned in favor of character-focused comedy, but unfortunately the characters aren't funny. Despite varying quirks, the show's approach is having Azazel, or Beelzebub, or Undine yell as loud and angrily as they can at the other characters about whatever their complaint is in that episode. Undine is jealous about another woman, Azazel is mad at how unfair it is he can't do something sexual, or Beelzebub is mad that someone is insulting his appetite for feces.
We see Beelzebub eat feces a lot and it never stops being gross. I mean, kudos to the creators for going with a literal “Lord of the Flies” joke, I guess. By comparison, Azazel being a creep to Rinko is more or less abandoned by the end of the first season for similar jokes that are less cringe-worthy and more goofy.
Episodes 9-12, the cosplay episode arc (keep an eye out for Tokyo Big Sight) and the appearance of the hiking angel are when the show hits its stride, comically. It's also the only time one of Beelzebub's poop jokes is remotely funny. Rinko joins her college's otaku club to get access to the club president's perfect study notebook and begins cosplaying as a magical girl. She initially hates it, but finds herself slowly growing more and more into character until she's waiting on a curry cafe, likely at Comiket. The Alpine Angel arc pits a hairy angel against the demons as he attempts to bring one of their Grimoires to God to get a promotion. God is depicted as a shadow that enjoys dick jokes.
The second season is unable to maintain the streak though, going headlong into a transphobic, gay panic set of episodes about hemorrhoids that ends in anal rape. One of the reoccurring characters finds himself with hemorrhoids and goes to see a specialist, Dr. Reiko, who is a transwoman. Kōtarō is uncomfortable having a transwoman look at his butt and is able to confirm through demon powers that the doctor is a rapist. Reiko says a bunch of rapey dialogue and then admits him into the hospital but through a series of events involving a demon-possessed patient, Reiko ends up leaving. Her lover finds out and blames the patient and the episode ends with him being raped in an alleyway in front of his girlfriend.
There's really no way to recover from that. One can overlook Salamander's rantings about subservient women, maybe. One can overlook Beelzebub literally eating and being covered in crap, Azazel being a pervert, and Undine relentlessly whining about not getting enough attention. The characters are already obnoxious. The writing didn't so much as garner a chuckle or smile from me from start to finish. You're Being Summoned, Azazel occasionally induced exasperation but it's rare that a show succeeds at being downright offensive.
The show unabashedly hits the very lowest brow of humor just because it can, which doesn't mean it should. I couldn't recommend this show in good conscience to anyone.
That's it for this week. I apologize for the delay, which I'm blaming on jetlag, but be sure to check out my adventures in Tokyo and Anime Japan! We'll be back next week with Space Dandy, Yakitate Japan, and Place to Place.
This week's shelves are from Daniel Staab, who last submitted his shelves the same year I last went to Japan, about eight years ago. How time does fly.
" I have been collecting for over 13 years and I continue to make it grow. Over the years I have bought many DVD'S of TV shows and at times I have sold off some of it. Sometimes for money issues or other times I thought some of the shows weren't that great or that I will never watch again, I regret getting rid of a few of them years later. I have also double dipped and re bought shows for smaller packaging or just to get them on Blu Ray. Nowadays I tend to buy shows that I will re watch again and again. I am very proud of my collection, I don't buy AS much, but shows that I want to support my love for. I tend to go for more older titles, in this collection I also have a huge movie/tv show collection. I just love watching this stuff. My collection of non anime is quite...interesting, take a look for yourself. Either way I am proud of it, although I might get another new shelf. "
Very cool update.
Want to show off your shelves? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks for reading!
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