Shelf Life
False Hopes

by Bamboo Dong, Gabriella Ekens,

Jump to this week's reviews:
Looking Up At the Half-Moon
A Certain Magical Railgun season 1
Nisekoi volume 3.

On Shelves This Week

Devil Survivor 2: The Animation - Complete Collection
Sentai - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $40.29 Amazon

Synopsis: Hibiki and his friends are surprised when they see a video of their deaths on a new app they just downloaded. But when the actual event comes, they're given a choice to live or die. They choose the former, and are granted the power to summon demons to help them fight against monsters that are attacking the city. As they learn the truths behind the invaders and their newfound abilities, they come to realize just how much is at stake.

Thoughts: I reviewed Devil Survivor 2 just last year when the DVD boxset came out, and thought it was entertaining enough. It's very action-heavy, and incredibly dark, especially near the end, so if you're looking for something to get your blood going, check it out. You can also read Rebecca's thoughts about the series here, and watch the series streaming online at The Anime Network, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

Freezing Vibration BD+DVD Funimation Exclusive, BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $84.98|$64.98|$69.98
Currently cheapest at: $84.98 Funimation, $37.36 Amazon, $40.75 Rakuten

Synopsis: Satellizer el Bridget and some of the world's most powerful Pandoras are summoned to a secret base where they learn about the E-Pandora Project, a mysterious program aimed at creating artificial Pandora designed to combat the new Nova threat.

Thoughts: This sequel to Freezing reunites original series director Takashi Watanabe and series composer Masanao Akahoshi. Watanabe has directed a number of well-known series, including much of the Slayers franchise, the Shakugan no Shana franchise, Boogiepop Phantom, Ikki Tousen, and others. You can check out Theron's review of the first series here, and my thoughts here. You can check out episodes on Funimation and Hulu.

Hanamonogatari - Suruga Devil BD
Aniplex of America - 150 min - Sub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $49.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Suruga Kanbaru meets Ougi Oshino, who claims to be the nephew of Meme Oshino. He tells Suruga a rumor about the Lord Devil, who supposedly is able to grant any wish. Suruga is worried it might be herself, but decides to try and uncover the identity of the Lord Devil. When she goes to the meeting spot, she's surprised to see her old classmate Rouka.

Thoughts: This is the sixth installment of Monogatari Series Second Season and features all five episodes of the Suruga Devil arc. You can check out our reviews of the previous arcs, including Nekomonogatari, Kabukimonogatari, Otorimonogatari, Onimonogatari, and Koimonogatari. The series is streaming on Daisuki, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Naruto Shippūden DVD Box 22
Viz Media - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $44.98
Currently cheapest at: $27.94 Rakuten

Synopsis: The Fourth Great Ninja War is still raging on, with no end in sight. Naruto's training has made him more stronger, but some still fear the powers that lurk within. In the meantime, the Allied Forces are getting help from the grave. This set contains episodes 271-283.

Thoughts: While we don't have any reviews for the first few hundred episodes of Naruto Shippuden, fans who are keeping up with the simulcasts can follow the weekly streaming reviews from Amy McNulty starting from episode 374. New fans can also check out the entirety of Naruto and Naruto Shippuden is streaming on Crunchyroll.

One Piece Collection 12 DVD
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $28.79 Amazon

Synopsis: This set covers episodes 276 to 299 and covers much of the Enies Lobby arc. The crew is trying its best to rescue Nico Robin, but they're up against some truly unique enemies. Meanwhile, parts of Robin's past are revealed through flashbacks.

Thoughts: You can check out our reviews of this arc here and here. If you'd like to check the episodes out first, you can find One Piece streaming on, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

Space Brothers Collection 2 BD, DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.04 Rakuten, $29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: The JAXA astronaut selection exam continues, but after 10 days in close confines, the candidates are starting to get testy... especially since there are saboteurs amongst them.

Thoughts: The selection exam includes some of my favorite episodes in the entire series, both for its fascinating accuracy, and also the insight that we get into the various characters. You can read my thoughts on the first collection here, or Carl's review of this set of episodes. You can catch up on The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

The Garden of Sinners - recalled out summer [Limited Edition] BD
Aniplex of America - 120 min - Sub - MSRP $79.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: This set contains two films, recalled out summer, which takes place in 1998 and tells of a battle between Shiki Ryougi and serial bomber Meruka Kuramitsu; and recalled out summer -extra chorus-, in which high schooler Ririsu Miyasuki attempts to commit suicide, but finds herself face-to-face with her psychokinetic classmate.

Thoughts: recalled out summer is the directorial debut of Tomonori Sudou, who's done character design and animation direction for the rest of the Garden of Sinners movie series, character design for Fate/Zero, and key animation for shows like NieA_7, Katanagatari, R.O.D -The TV-, and more. You can check out Zac's previous review of the film series here.

Unlimited Psychic Squad Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon, $29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: Hyobu Kyosuke is one of the most powerful espers in the world, and the leader of the secret organization P.A.N.D.R.A. He is dedicated to fighting those who want to harm people with psychic powers, and he's not afraid to use his abilities.

Thoughts: Unlimited Psychic Squad is a spinoff of Psychic Squad, also known as Zettai Karen Children. It's the second principle directorial credit for Shishō Igarashi, whose resume includes storyboard and episode directing credits for shows like Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2. He's joined by writer Shinichi Inotsume, who helped pen the original series. You can check out some of the first impressions from the Winter 2013 preview guide, or check it out streaming on The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin - Blue-Eyed Casval [Import][Collector's Edition] BD+DVD 1
Bandai Visual - 63 min - Hyb - MSRP $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $99.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Zeon Zum Deikun of the Autonomous Republic of Munzo suddenly passes away, leaving behind his children Casval and Artesia, better known as Char Aznable and Sayla Mass. Meanwhile, despite Jimba Ral's warnings, the House of Zabi only seems to be gaining in power.

Thoughts: This is the first of four OVAs that adapt Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's manga of the same name. Those interested in watching the "Blue-Eyed Casval" streaming can purchase the title on Daisuki.

Shelf Life Reviews

We've got three reviews this week, two from Gabriella, and one from yours truly. Gabriella is starting us off this week with her review of Looking Up At The Half-Moon, released by Nozomi Entertainment.

Looking Up at the Half-Moon marks another fine entry in the “a woman's pain is all about her boyfriend” genre. It exists somewhere between Clannad and School Days. Neither well-produced enough to be the beloved melodrama or insane enough to be the infamous disaster, Half-Moon is just inept enough to be rancid while still boring me to tears.

Looking Up at the Half-Moon is a love story between two hospitalized teenagers, Yuichi Ezaki and Rika Akiba. Yuichi has hepatitis A while Rika has a weak heart valve. While Yuichi's condition is functional, Rika can die at any moment. Rika's doctor, Goro Natsume, keeps trying to sabotage the relationship for mysterious reasons.

Thematically, the main problem is that it's all about Yuichi. Rika should be a much stronger character. Her interiority is the promising one – she's a dying young woman who seeks refuge in books and acts out against her caretakers. Instead, she's an object, Yuichi's beautiful dying lover and the subject for his (and Dr. Natsume's) angst. I don't think that she even appears in any scene where Yuichi isn't present or where people aren't talking about her with Yuichi.

Ultimately, the show is much more about Yuichi's conflict with Dr. Natsume than his relationship with Rika. Dr. Natsume is Rika's primary doctor who had a similar relationship with a sick young woman when he was a teenager. When the woman died, he turned into a giant prick. Now he's trying to prevent Yuichi from getting together with Rika for the boy's future happiness. This is, of course, a massively awful, curmudgeon-y move that only happens to give this show even an ounce of conflict. Pure externalized melodrama, the writing is too weak to make Yuichi and Rika's romance dramatically interesting on its own.

The funniest part is how Dr. Natsume goes about breaking the two up. Yuichi spends a significant amount of time – maybe about an episode overall – looking at porno magazines. (He keeps a massive stash of them under his hospital bed, as you do.) Dr. Natsume keeps arranging it so that Rika walks in on him while Yuichi's doing this, which makes her fly into a passive-aggressive rage. This show is both obsessed with teenage boys reading pornography and thinks that women would be so appalled by this that they'd break up with their boyfriends. It's stupid, sexist, and lazy.

This is also the ugliest show I've seen in a long time. It's a no-budget production from 2006, meaning that the colors are somehow both blared-out and dull, the character designs generic, and the animation minimal. The background work is particularly uninspired. At one point Yuichi and Rika are supposed to share a romantic moment looking down at the city from a mountaintop, but the “gorgeous view” just looks like an expanse of black. Half-Moon has nothing going for it in terms of production values – the only thing that might've made it worth sitting through the nothing story.

If you're interested in lush anime melodrama, I recommend most works by Key – Angel Beats!, Clannad, even Little Busters. For an actually resonant love story between terminal children, watch or read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. For what looks to be a quality anime-specific ramification on mortality with a side dose of romance, check out the currently-airing Plastic Memories. Half-Moon is looking up from the bottom of the barrel.
- Gabriella[TOP]

Next up, Gabriella takes us through Funimation's most recent re-release of A Certain Scientific Railgun.

Misaka Mikoto is Tokawadai Middle School's psychic superstar. One of the top seven “Level 5” espers in a city dedicated to training superpowered teens, her body produces enough electricity to knock out the city's power grid. Her mastery of her powers has earned her the title Railgun, a reference to her ability to launch projectiles at seven times the speed of sound. This side story recounts Misaka's adventures before becoming embroiled in the events of A Certain Magical Index. As a high-class student, she hangs out with rambunctious teleporter Kuroko Shirai, gentle techie Kazari Uiharu, and self-conscious “Level Zero” Ruiko Saiten. Together, these four girls enjoy school life and protect Academy City from the forces that threaten it.

These first 24 episodes consist of one arc interspersed with filler. Misaka first defeats and then teams up with scientist Harumi Kiyama to rescue a group of comatose orphans from becoming living test subjects for an unethical corporation. In between, she flirts with swimsuit modeling, gets embroiled with local gangs, and consumes approximately two dozen fruit parfaits.

Misaka's a likeable heroine – tomboyish, active, and kind. Unfortunately, she's often overshadowed by Kuroko, her “best friend” and the worst thing in the show. Kuroko's primary character trait is uncontrollable sexual desire for Misaka. Hardly an episode goes by where Kuroko doesn't try to molest her “onee-sama,” despite the older girl's loud protestations. It ruins every scene where it happens and never goes away, unlike Harumi's unfortunate proclivity for stripping publically. I might have to canonize Kuroko as one of my least favorite anime characters of all time.

If you can't tell already, A Certain Scientific Railgun was very much not for me. I found its attempts at humor at best boring and at worst insufferable. The characters are flat and visually indistinguishable. It's not even very good at being a “people with powers” show – there are only a couple of fights throughout the 24 episodes, and they tend to default to showing off Misaka's electric blasts or Kuroko's teleportation. It's most dynamic when characters are using their powers in interesting ways. For example, Misaka at one point creates a sword out of magnetized iron particles while Kuroko knocks down a building by teleporting glass panes into its foundations. Many other battles, however, are won by just having Misaka spam lightning bolts, and it gets a bit old.

As a consistent bestseller, A Certain Scientific Railgun has to be scratching some itch, and I think I know what it is. Railgun, like its most prominent imitator, The Irregular at Magic High School, caters to a very specific adolescent worldview – an unerring sense of righteousness and belief that you, a socially and academically privileged teen, know how to handle the world's ills better than any silly adult. In close to every episode, our teenaged heroines have to fend off the hordes of adult male criminals who populate the otherwise utopian Academy City. They never question why so many men resort to crime – their actions are framed as evil, and our heroines' just – while the police force is manned by vigilante middle schoolers. (Maybe it saves money on prisons? Getting arrested by Kuroko seems like adequate punishment for most crimes.) The series hints a few times that Academy City's rigid judgment of its citizens/students according to their esper abilities hurts people, but it ultimately sides on “Mikoto Misaka's powers are awesome and she does what's right, like protecting orphans.” Who isn't in favor of protecting orphans? It's dramatically lazy in a series rife with intriguingly problematic implications, and I could never get over that.

Don't get me wrong – I don't think that Railgun is hurting anyone. It may be naïve and stupidly plotted/characterized, but it's also benign. Railgun is a keen mixture of story elements designed to make otaku (particularly the chuunibyou subset) go wild. I have nothing against this type of entertainment existing, I just can't recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone. It you enjoy stuff like anime girls flipping each other's skirts and powers-based wire-fu, you'll probably dig Railgun. If you don't, avoid it like the plague. It's still a solid execution of the concept, with high production values and slick animation. I, however, am not part of its target audience, so I spent most of the runtime imagining painful ways in which Kuroko could be scrubbed off of the face of the Earth.

This latest release by Funimation packages the entire season into one box on both DVD and Blu Ray. It's a deal compared to the 2013 release, which divides the season into two parts and only provides DVDs. If you've been waiting to pick up Railgun on a budget, now's the time, unless they decide to put all 48 episodes into some sort of mega-release in the near future. (Unlikely.) The dub is also very listenable. Brittney Karbowski makes for a casually cool Misaka, Anastasia Munoz a believably haggard Harumi, and Alison Viktorin nails Kuroko's arrogance. This is currently the most convenient way to own A Certain Scientific Railgun as physical media. Should lightning strike, you might even enjoy the content!
- Gabriella[TOP]

Rounding out this week is my thoughts on the third volume of Nisekoi, which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would.

The more I watch Nisekoi, the more captivated I am by the characters. Not the childhood promises they made ten years ago, or who likes whom, or this strange love pentagon they seem to be in. But just the characters by themselves, and their goofy quirks. Somehow, between the first episode and the eleventh, I've stopped focusing on the main hook—"Who holds the key to Raku's locket?"— and just started enjoying the ride. Now I find that I don't really care at all who he made the promise to, whether he ever picks a girl, or if he'll eventually come to the sensible conclusion and realize that the one he likes now is what matters most.

It helps that the female characters are all pretty likable, especially when they're not fixated on Raku. As increasingly ludicrous as this "three keys, one locket" setup is (this set of episodes introduces a third girl and a third key, by the way), the group's dynamic is remarkably happy and supportive. It gives the girls the chance to hang out together as friends, without the drama and angst that would likely occur in real life (though in real life, it's doubtful they'd even cling with such determination to someone as bland and indecisive as Raku). It's through this strange camaraderie that some of the best scenes take place. For example, Chitoge, despite her yakuza upbringing and aloof exterior, is downright giddy when she's given the chance to purchase photos from their class trip. She's never really had friends before, and it's heart-warming to see her so gosh-darned happy to be part of a group. Meanwhile, Onodera has really come out of her shell, so her scenes carry a lot more weight now, too. She's played a backseat role up until now, but we're finally able to see a more introspective side, one that has secret places where she goes and collects her thoughts.

And then there's the way both girls react to newcomer Marika, a girl so forward with her affections towards Raku that Chitoge and Onodera quickly form an unspoken alliance against her. As viewers, we're also on their side. We're already so invested in their lives, that the presence of someone else feels intrusive somehow. Perhaps if there's a good thing to come out of this growing harem, it's that the characters will realize how silly they were to pin their feelings on something as fleeting as an old childhood memory.

Messy relationships aside, Nisekoi is a beautiful show, with visuals that are easy to get lost in. The backgrounds are sumptuous and detailed, and they're perfect for the characters' more quiet moments. They work in perfect harmony with the series' goofier moments as well, including the ugly-cute character reactions that I've grown to love. Even though Raku likes it best when he catches glimpses of the girls' more traditionally feminine sides (the lingering shots of lips and quivering eyes that the animators seem to also cherish oh-so-much), I get a kick out of the everyday reactions, like the scowls, frowns, and nose wrinkles. One scene still makes me laugh out loud just thinking about it, in which we get to hear Chitoge do her best dead-pan Mickey Mouse impression.

While I've never really liked that Nisekoi is being released in small chunks, I do think it's helped me appreciate the series a little more. If I were marathoning it, I would be a lot more annoyed at the addition of Marika, and the fact that this "is she the one…???" is still on-going. But watching it piece by piece, I feel like I'm better able to just sit back and enjoy getting to know the characters, without worrying too much about this increasingly-stretched premise. I'd say that I hope it gets resolved soon, but I suspect that's not going to happen.
- Bamboo[TOP]

That's it for this week. Join us next week for more!

This week's shelves are from Matt R., who wrote: "Long time reader, first time patronizer. I was unknowingly first exposed to anime back in the early 80's with Belle & Sebastian, then picked up the torch with aplomb in the mid 90's with my first viewing of Ninja Scroll. I was a goner from that point and have stayed an anime fan ever since. What you see of my shelves is a carefully curated selection of my favorites (both anime and non-anime), as I managed to retain many of my beloved titles through the VHS to DVD to Blu-ray transitions as well as a cross-country move from Ohio to California in 2004 that forced me to select only my most favored choices. Nowadays, I consume most of my anime via Crunchyroll, but I'll still gladly shell out the money for the discs of titles that leave a lasting impression. Some of my manga collection is in a box due to space issues, and I hope to replace my Nichijou bootleg DVDs with actual, official discs someday."

That Lain doll is too cute. Thanks for sharing!

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

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