by Bamboo Dong, Paul Jensen,
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Named for the speed at which cherry blossoms fall from trees, 5 Centimeters Per Second tells the story of Takaki and Akari, childhood friends who moved apart from each other, but continued to stay in touch through letters. The movie follows the duo in three instances of their lives, and offers a glimpse into how the other factors into each person's life.
Thoughts: I absolutely love this movie, and it easily places in my Top 3 Makoto Shinkai films of all time (below Voices of a Distant Star, and above The Garden of Words). Like many of Shinkai's other works, there's a sense of longing that permeates the entire movie, bolstered with gorgeous art and a fantastic soundtrack. You can read more of my gushings here, as well as a full-length review from Theron. You can watch the movie online subbed and dubbed from Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: The entire town of Magnolia is transported to the parallel universe of Edolas, where a magic-starved kingdom is planning on draining Fairy Tail of its magic. Natsu, Wendy, Happy, and Carla have been left behind, and must find a way to track down their friends.
Synopsis: Shoyo Hinata has always been short, but he's never let it interfere with his dream of becoming a volleyball star. He's excited to join the volleyball club at his new high school, but he's surprised to learn that his nemesis Tobio Kageyama will be on the same team. The two need to learn how to work together if they have any hope of making it to Nationals.
Thoughts: I enjoyed Haikyu!! a whole lot (you can read some of my ramblings here), but under the caveat that I also really, really love sports anime. And since Haikyu!! is pretty solidly a sports anime, I would mostly recommend it to those who enjoy the genre. Those dipping their toes into the pool for the first time may appreciate its humor and momentum-driven key frames though. If you're keen on checking it out, you can watch the series online from The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: Lupin is after the lost treasures of the Romanovs, but finds it in an unlikely location - Texas! He gets a helping hand from Jigen and Fujiko, but he's got competition from the mafia, and of course, one of Rasputin's descendants.
Thoughts: This is yet another one of the Lupin films created by the Osamu Dezaki and Hiroshi Kashiwabara team. The latter penned a dozen Lupin films, while the former also lent his talents to classics like Black Jack, Ashita no Joe, Golgo 13, The Rose of Versailles, and a dozen more.
Synopsis: Sio Ogura is a shy military otaku who's been having recurring dreams about ancient battles. Her class field trip is interrupted by giant insectoid monsters, but the only thing that can stop them are E-Gene Holders, people who can channel ancestral historic figures and summon forth destructive weapons. Sio learns that she is the reincarnation of Oda Nobunaga, which allows her to manifest a gun and some pure tactical genius.
Synopsis: Please Teacher! follows the story of two unlikely protagonists - a high school student named Kei whose rare disorder put him in a coma for three years, stunting his growth; and Mizuho, a high school teacher who's actually an alien sent by the Galaxy Federation to observe human life on Earth. In order to protect her secret, Kei agrees to marry Mizuho.
Thoughts: This boxset is a re-release of Please Teacher!; the first came out in 2003, right around the time I was really into the music stylings of Kotoko, who also provided the theme song for my number one guilty pleasure, Please Twins. The premise is a little dodgy and requires some justifications to get around, but the show itself is sunny and pleasant enough, provided you can stomach the super dated 2001 character designs. If you want the alien-human romance without the teacher-student bits, I would actually steer you towards Waiting in the Summer, although Please Teacher! might warrant a nostalgia glance.
Synopsis: Akane is kidnapped by a man wearing a pantyhose scarf, who earlier also stole the Jusenkyo Guestbook. Ranma works together Ryoga, Mousse, and Shampoo to get her back, but along the way discovers that the kidnapper has a body-changing secret too.
Thoughts: This collection contains episodes 116-138. You can read our reviews of box sets one, two, and three, and five. 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.
Synopsis: When pop idols Sakura and Elena are given an assignment to appear in a wrestling ring, they're humiliated by the hardened Rio, who wants them to know that wrestling is no easy matter. Fueled by determination and the desire to give Rio a taste of her own medicine, Sakura quits being an idol to devote herself to being a pro wrestler.
Thoughts: I'm sure this is someone's cup of tea, but it certainly wasn't mine. I'm no stranger to fanservice, but this show takes it to a realm of sexual humiliation that I can't quite get over. Unfortunately, we don't have any full-length reviews of this show, but the first episode garnered a 1.25 average on the 2013 Winter Preview Guide, and carries a 4.44 average user rating. In looking at the production credits, director Rion Kujo also worked on Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, which I have nothing but disdain for. Anyway, if you want to check it out for yourself, you can stream the series on Funimation.com, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.
Synopsis: A disaster on Earth has led humans to abandon their physical bodies and begin anew with digitized minds in the cyber universe of DEVA. After a hacking incident originating from the planet, government agent Angela Balzak is sent to Earth with a prosthetic body to trace the origins of the hack and investigate the perpetrator's motives.
Thoughts: We'll have a review of Expelled from Paradise up for you soon, but you can check out Hope's review of the movie. The film is written by Gen Urobuchi, of Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero fame, and directed by Seiji Mizushima, whom fans might know from Fullmetal Alchemist, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and Un-Go.
Shelf Life Reviews
Devil Survivor 2: The Animation - Complete Collection BD
Space Brothers Collection 2 BD
Nothing this week
Nothing this week
This week, two reviews with the number "2" in them, although one is a second volume, and the other is just a carry-over from a video game title. First up, Paul's thoughts on Devil Survivor 2: The Animation:
The show certainly doesn't waste any time bringing the world the brink of destruction. A group of mysterious invaders called Septentriones have laid siege to humanity, with a more powerful baddie coming to wreak havoc every day. There's a shadowy organization in place to fight them off, and our defense is led by a handful of chosen people who can summon demons with their cell phones. Parts of the premise and some of the Septentrion abilities feel like they were ripped right out of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but at least the writers picked a good series to borrow from. Humanity is backed pretty far into a corner here, but anyone who can survive will have a chance to reshape the world however they see fit. Looks like it's time for some desperate last stands and lofty speeches about human potential.
Make no mistake: this is a dark series in several ways. The overall tone of the show is filled with gloom and doom, with major characters dropping dead on a regular basis. It's not the sort of thing you'd want to watch after a rough day at the office, but all the misery does at least have a purpose. As long as you're prepared to have your heart broken a few times, the story does a good job of taking the end of the world seriously. Even the animation is dark, though not always in a good way. The subdued color palette helps set the mood, but the screen can sometimes get so dark that it's hard to tell what's happening. Someone seriously needs to lend these poor people a flashlight or two.
Devil Survivor's biggest strength is its ensemble cast. With a few notable exceptions, I found myself liking just about everyone more than I expected to. The characters have enough depth to be memorable, and they all react to their circumstances in their own way. We're meant to relate to these people and feel the weight of the world pressing down on them, and that connection makes a character's loss more keenly felt. The only weak points are Yamato and Fumi, both of whom come across as impossibly cold-blooded and insufferable. In a cast that numbers over a dozen, however, a couple of bad apples aren't enough to spoil the bunch.
I don't typically have much to say about opening and ending themes, but Devil Survivor does something really clever with its end credits. It seems pretty innocuous at first: a moody song plays as the camera moves down a lineup of the main characters. The catch is that characters disappear from the sequence once they die in the show, and their spot is left empty. By the last few episodes, there are huge gaps where likable characters used to be. It's a neat trick that goes a long way toward reinforcing the sense of loss whenever someone bites the bullet. I'm usually the kind of person who skips the opening and ending credits after a few episodes, but I absolutely recommending letting them run for this series.
I'm also impressed by Devil Survivor's ability to stand on its own merit. I haven't played the game, but I never found myself struggling to keep up. The show explains things as they come up without ever piling on too much exposition in a single sitting. The demon summoning app probably works better as a game mechanic than it does as a plot device, but I rarely felt like I was watching someone else play a video game. If it weren't for the title, it wouldn't take much to convince me that this was an original story instead of an adaptation.
This isn't a particularly upbeat show, nor is it flawless. It is, however, far better than I expected it to be. It tells a complete and emotionally potent story without a single filler episode to be found. Even if you're not familiar with the source material, it's worth checking out just to see concrete proof that anime based on video games can turn out all right from time to time.
For those who don't want death and destruction after a long workday, there's Space Brothers, which I can't find enough positive adjectives for.
Space Brothers has always been one of my favorite "anytime, anywhere" shows to watch. Unlike some other series, I never have to be in the "right" mood to watch Space Brothers—it just always works for me. I think a lot of that has to do with its perfect blend of humor, tension, drama, and inspiration. Everything is dispersed evenly and done just right, so no matter what kind of day I've just had, this show has something that pushes all the right buttons. The only downside is that once I start watching, it's difficult to stop, so I find myself incredibly unproductive on any of the days that I decide to sit down for "just one episode."
This set of episodes takes place in two main locations—it finishes the astronaut selection exam component that required the characters to live together in closed modules, and then takes the finalists to Houston, where they'll be put through another round of interviews and more tasks. It shouldn't be a spoiler for me to say that Mutta of course makes it through, since it'd otherwise be a very short series. As for the others, I'll keep my mouth zipped. One thing that I really like about Space Brothers is that even though Mutta (and to some degree, Hibito) is clearly the main character, the series does a good job of making sure that we get to know the other characters. These flashbacks and side stories are scattered amongst the episodes, which is frustrating for those who just want the resolution for any given cliffhanger, but it helps a lot to flesh out those who would otherwise just be background placeholders. And unlike American competition reality shows, where it's fairly easy to figure out who stays or goes based on the kind of edits they get in an episode, Space Brothers makes a concerted effort to even out the coverage.
There are two main things that have always jumped out at me about this show, and it's the humor and technical know-how. I've talked about the latter a lot in my various reviews over the years, and it remains one of the best things about this meticulously researched series. From its accurate portrayals of JAXA testing procedures, to its precise location scouting (the Texas Roadhouse in the last episode looks exactly like every Texas Roadhouse I've ever set foot in, although the food looks more palatable in the anime than it is in real life), Space Brothers is a true must-see for space geeks and space agency geeks alike.
It's the humor, though, that makes this show so effortlessly fun. The writers get a lot of mileage out of visual gags, especially those centered around Mutta, whose facial expressions, pliable hairdo, and wacky mannerisms keep the show light-hearted. The faces he makes when he's thinking about Serika, for instance, are goofy without being lecherous, and his cheesy grins make him near impossible to dislike. There's a fun episode near the tail-end of the collection where he takes on a temp job as a mall Santa, and his hair conforms to the shape of the hat, shortly before sagging into place on its own. There's another great scene where he's psyching himself up to go for a run, using "shooooooweeerrr!" and "milk milk milk" as onomatopoeias to describe his actions. They're all small, insignificant things, but combined with Mutta's affable nature and his lovable underdog charm, they always make me laugh out loud.
At the same time, Space Brothers has what every solid, character-driven story needs—compelling characters and enough gravitas to prevent it from sagging into a heap of reaction shot jokes. The JAXA module test is a perfect example of this, in the way that it uses side stories to introduce us to most of the main players. Each of the characters has a reason for taking the exam, some more heartbreaking than others. Serika is doing it out of love and reverence for her deceased father, while Fukuda is chasing a life-long dream. His story sent pangs through my heart, even though the theme of absentee fathers is a well-worn path in storytelling. All of these combine well with the inherent suspense of the exam, and help a lot in giving viewers a break from seeing the same three rooms over and over again.
Of all the shows that I've seen over the past several years, Space Brothers is probably in my top three most-recommended. I think the subject matter might bore some viewers, but I think the jokes help make the series a more universally enjoyable experience. I really can't emphasize enough what a terrific show this is, not only for the way it crafts an engaging story out of a remarkably well-researched topic, but also for the way it makes each disc so hard to put down. If you haven't watched it yet, you're missing out on one of the best shows of the last five years.
This week's shelves are from Digital Scratch, who wrote the following:
"My username's Digital Scratch and I thought it'd be fun to share my collection of anime merch. It's not exactly my "shelf" life as much as it is my "apartment" life. I have been collecting for about 9 years now and I have no plans on stopping. I am mainly passionate about Soul Eater and Madoka Magica, but I enjoy having a variety of series.
Hope you enjoy looking around!"
Love the collection!
Want to show off your shelves? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks!
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