Shelf Life
Video Game Girl Ai

by Bamboo Dong, Gabriella Ekens, Paul Jensen,

Jump to this week's reviews:
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Hyperdimension Neptunia
Solty Rei

On Shelves This Week

Please Twins! - Complete Collection DVD
Nozomi Entertainment - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $23.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Maiku grew up an orphan, but always believed that one day, he'd find his long lost sister. With only a childhood photo to guide him, he moves back to his old home, only to meet two girls who both claim to be his sister. Now they must figure out which one of them is his sister, and which one is his one true love.

Thoughts: My dark confession over the years has always been that I actually really like Please Twins. Sure, the premise is a little dicey if you think about it, but the character designs were pleasant and the music was charming. The girls are also exceedingly likeable, although their repetitive dialogue is enough to make you want to turn them off for a bit. When I first watched it in 2005, I likened the melodrama to The OC, and I think that's still an apt comparison for anyone who actually remembers that show. You can watch it online at Hulu.




Pokemon XY Set 1 DVD
Viz Media - 600 min - Dub - MSRP $26.95
Currently cheapest at: $18.67 Amazon

Synopsis: Ash finally arrives in the Kalos region and promptly sets his sights on the Kalos League. But first, he'll need to face off against the gym leaders of the region. Later, he also learns new information about Pokemon Evolution.

Thoughts: You can check out a wide variety of Pokemon episodes at Pokemon.com and Hulu.




Sakura Trick - Complete Collection DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Haruka and Yuu have been best friends for as long as they remember. But when the new school year starts, they find out that they have to sit on opposite ends of the classroom. The two decide to make their relationship more special by sealing it with a kiss.

Thoughts: Our readers seem to like this series, with an average user rating of 7/10. It's directed by Ken'ichi Ishikura, who previously directed D.C.III ~Da Capo III~ and served as an episode director for shows like Hidamari Sketch and Maria Holic. You can check out the series on The Anime Network, Sakura Trick and Hulu.




Space Brothers Collection 4 BD, DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Right Stuf|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Hibito faces a difficult challenge on the moon, with no one to help him except for radio guidance from Earth. As he and his teammate struggle to survive, Mutta teams up with scientists back at Mission Control to figure out a way to save his brother before it's too late.

Thoughts: You can check out some of my thoughts on previous volumes of Space Brothers, which remains one of my favorite shows from the last several years. Or you can check it out yourself on The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll




The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura - Complete Collection (Premium) BD
NIS America - 288 min - Sub - MSRP $64.99
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Haruka Kotoura has been able to read minds since she was young, but her special abilities have brought her more trouble than good. Since she's always had difficulties determining the difference between people's thoughts and their spoken words, she often terrifies people, including her own family. After being alone for several years, she finally makes friends when she joins the school's ESP Research Club and meets people who embrace her talents.

Thoughts: Kotoura-san has its bittersweet moments, but it has some charming and funny interludes as well. Theron reviewed the series when it was streaming, but if you want to check it out yourself, you can stream it on Crunchyroll.




Turn A Gundam Part 2 DVD
Sunrise - 625 min - Sub - MSRP $49.99
Currently cheapest at: $33.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Guin Rhineford leads a group of the Earth Militia into space, hoping to quickly find a solution to end the conflict when they reach the moon. However, the absence of Queen Dianna has left the government in chaos. Meanwhile, Loran becomes increasingly concerned about the Turn A Gundam, and the secrets behind its origins.

Thoughts: Check out Nick's review of Turn A Gundam part 1 here. We'll have our reviews up soon as well.




Shelf Life Reviews

It's a week full of "Rental Shelf" material, so buckle up if you're ready for a ride into Meh Town.

First up, video games and breasts. Gabriella reviews Funimation's release of Hyperdimension Neptunia, where the console wars come to vivid life in the form of nubile young ladies.

Hyperdimension Neptunia: the Animation is based on a bestselling series of video games. I haven't played them myself, but from what I can tell, this adaptation consists of three games' storylines compacted into 13 episodes. While this results in a confusing and inert narrative experience, its main purpose – fanservice of both the salacious and nonsalacious kind – remains intact.

The story is as follows: in a world of narrowly avoided copyright violations, the human incarnations of video game consoles govern nations as benevolent Goddesses. After thousands of years spent embroiled in a conflict known as the Console Wars, the four nations – Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, and Leanbox – sign a peace treaty and usher in an age of peace. Our heroine, Neptune, is the avatar for Planeptune's Goddess, Purple Heart. An inexperienced Goddess, she's returned to govern her nation after a stint in exile. This anime skims over the first game (in which Neptune fought to regain her title) in order to set up the second, wherein the Goddesses' little sisters step in to save the day when their elders are taken captive. Our heroines proceed to deal with rogue Goddesses, voyeuristic robots, and alternate dimension versions of themselves.

Fortunately, Hyperdimension Neptunia knows precisely how silly it is, and that lets me forgive the nonsensical storytelling. Ultimately, the runtime clocks out at about 50% plot stuff and 50% faffing about. By the end, I was charmed by the characters and genuinely interested in their relationships. I like this in the same way I like a decent kids' cartoon, but with more badonkadonk.

The character designs do a lot to make the show look as nice as it does. With characters who resemble fancy cupcakes more than actual humans, Hyperdimension Neptunia could've easily been an overdesigned mess. It's a credit to the artists that it doesn't – instead, they give the show a pleasant, distinctive, and manageable aesthetic. In their unpowered forms, characters are covered in cutesy accessories and childlike outfits. It's almost – but not quite – too much. It helps that the designs simplify when characters enter their superpowered modes. It'd have been easy to associate increased power with more decoupage (as many series do) but the Goddess's two-tone HDD mode bodysuits are an efficient and stylish alternative. They succeed at both showing off moéflesh and looking good in motion. The downside is that Hyperdimension Neptunia doesn't contain that much animation. Neptune and co. spend most of their time standing around their respective homes or, when they're powered up, sliding around the screen in single-frame Peter Pan flight. Had the show included more choreographed fights, I would've enjoyed seeing the Goddesses in motion. Otherwise, this leads to some nice stills.

As a lady who's sensitive to how women are portrayed in fanservice shows, Hyperdimension Neptunia distinguishes itself as mostly inoffensive. While there are multitudinous tits incarnadine, the women aren't excessively infantilized, and not much of anything nonconsensual goes on. The worst it ever gets in terms of rapiness surrounds the character Iris Heart, and those moments are thankfully brief. Otherwise, there's a lame “flaming gay” stereotype character (who is, confusingly, obsessed with a woman).

Funimation's dub turns the camp dial up to eleven. The scripts – straightforward sentimentality in Japanese – have been punched up with every video game meme that the writers could think of. It's dangerous to go alone, miserable power of secrets, do a barrel role, etc. etc. It's more entertaining dubbed, sillier and more idiosyncratic. There are even some good one liners. (“I took your new leaf and wiped my ass with it!) Otherwise, the humor consists of slapstick antics and fourth-wall breaking. Your tolerance for it probably correlates to how much you like browsing TVTropes. Performances are all fine. Melissa Fahn stands out as the perky heroine, Neptunia. The strangest is Neptunia's alternate universe counterpart, voiced by Cherami Leigh, who speaks in a bizarre monotone.

Extras are sparese, but this release does contain the 13th episode OVA. It features alternate universe counterparts for all of the Goddesses and resolves the Peashy storyline. It's well worth watching if you enjoyed the rest.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is most recommended as ancillary material for fans of the games. At the same time, it might function decently standalone for fans of the hot chick battle sitcom genre. Overall, I can say that this booby show does not offend me as a general disliker of booby shows. It may be two stars out of four, but you know what there are only two of? Boobs.
- Gabriella[TOP]

Next up, Paul takes on another video game adaptation, this time Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky.

Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is a pretty wordy title, but I suppose that's what happens when you base a show on the fifteenth entry in a video game series. With that kind of background, one could be forgiven for expecting a landslide of lore and a plot that only makes sense to established fans. Thankfully, this is actually a very approachable title that requires little to no background knowledge. Heck, it's even reasonably entertaining.

An adaptation of a PlayStation 3 game of the same name, the series follows the adventures of a pair of alchemists in a small frontier town. Escha is a local girl who practices an old-school style of alchemy, while Logy is a city boy who acts more like a mix of a blacksmith and a mechanic. They're both theoretically part of a government research team, but they tend to end up doing less glamorous jobs like fixing windmills and purifying drinking water. Over the course of the series, Escha and Logy befriend a variety of adventurers and pursue Escha's childhood dream of visiting the ancient ruins that float in the sky above her hometown.

The most surprising thing about this show is its mellow atmosphere; most of the story takes place in the sort of friendly little town that most RPG heroes would abandon after finishing the tutorial mission. Instead of saving the world from an army of monsters, Escha and Logy mostly just work on improving the quality of life in their region. There's a big emphasis on revitalizing the mostly barren landscape and getting the community to unite for a common good. It's a fairly unique take on the genre, and it definitely works in the show's favor. Instead of being yet another “chosen hero fights monsters” story, it stands out from the crowd by looking at things from a more human angle.

That approach carries through in the charmingly rural background art and the absurdly pleasant cast of characters. Logy is initially pitched as a brooding, serious foil to Escha's heart-on-her-sleeve optimism, but even his gritty urban crankiness doesn't last long when faced with how impossibly nice everyone is. Even the show's various antagonists aren't particularly bad people, and most have good reasons for causing whatever trouble they happen to stir up. If anything, this series is a little too pleasant for its own good; without some seriously artful direction, it's tough to drag a compelling plot out of a universally good-natured cast. The show generally stops short of being genuinely dull, but it doesn't capture the viewer's attention quite as well as it might. A more detailed exploration of the story's themes would have helped, but the script doesn't seem interested in diving particularly deep.

The low-key approach is more of a stylistic issue than a serious problem, but Atelier does have its share of weak points. It shares a common fault with most game adaptations in that it occasionally feels like we're just watching someone play an RPG. The solutions to the town's problems habitually involve dungeon crawling, item farming, and the occasional boss fight. It's not as blatant here as it is in other shows, but it's still an irksome reminder that I could get the same experience by just playing the game. The action scenes themselves are a mix of bland choreography and mediocre CG monsters that stick out like sore thumbs next to the two-dimensional human characters. Frankly, the show would've been better off abandoning the fights altogether and letting the cast find more creative ways of overcoming their opponents.

Atelier may not be the greatest game-inspired anime series out there, but it's good enough to be worth your time. It's an interesting departure from the usual fantasy formula, and it's entertaining in a harmless and pleasant way. I was able to enjoy it despite my very limited familiarity with the source material, which is always a good sign for an adaptation. If you're looking for a way to pass the time while your wireless controller recharges, Escha and Logy might just fit the bill.
- Paul[TOP]

Rounding out this week is a throwback to an older series that was first released in North America in 2007. Gabriella takes on Funimation's S.A.V.E. Edition re-release of Yoshimasa Hiraike's Solty Rei:

Roy Revant is an experienced bounty hunter working in a futuristic metropolis. Before the series began, a mysterious catastrophe, the Blast Fall, took his daughter's life. Grief has turned him into a hardened shell of his former self – gruff and violent, he's slowly alienating his few remaining friends. But then he runs into a strange amnesiac girl, Solty. Solty forms an immediate attachment to Roy, and his friends register her as his adoptive daughter. At first irritated by this sudden interloper into his lonely life, Roy comes around to her, and they start acting like parent and child. However, it's not long before this newfound connection is threatened. Solty's purpose, Roy's past, and the city's secrets come back to haunt them, and nothing will be the same in the aftermath.

Solty Rei is a story about family and loss that happens to take place in a world full of supercomputers and cybernetic enhancements. The world building is in service of the characters and their journeys, and it never becomes overbearing. Despite their nonsense names, terminology like “resemble” and “Aurora Shell” are introduced at a gradual, intelligible pace. The characters, meanwhile, are universally endearing and fulfill their roles in terms of storytelling. Solty is an example of the much-used “infantile robot girl” archetype, but without a lot of the creepiness that usually surrounds it. Roy himself is a fresh take on a familiar type - “hardcore middle-aged men” characters aren't usually allowed this much of an emotional interiority, and SoltyRei does justice to Roy's grief without letting it overwhelm the show. The tritagonist, Rose Anderson, is a cyberpunk Robin Hood who steals in order to combat the city's draconian citizenship laws. Determined, boisterous, and sly, she's a ton of fun whenever she's onscreen. The side characters – from Roy's mother-and-daughter friends to Rose's brothers to quad of super-powered government agents – are all charming and entertaining. I haven't seen a show make such good use of its entire supporting cast in a while.

The production is quite good for Gonzo circa 2006. It's modest but consistent, and there isn't a point when the animation absolutely collapses. For lack of a better word, it looks very “2006” in its bright colors and chunky faces. However, the character designs are solid, distinct without being gaudy. When I first saw promotional images for this show, I was turned off by Solty's orange jumpsuit and green hair fronds. But in animation, she turned out surprisingly cute – even sleek. Even the infamous “mid-aughts Gonzo CG” isn't too distracting. There's no denying that Solty Rei looks dated, but it's weathered the past decade fairly well, all things considered.

Funimation did a great job on the dub. The three leads in particular are fantastic. Carrie Savage's Solty is innocent and childlike without being mewling, and Colleen Clinckenbeard is hilarious as Rose, the obnoxious thief. However, Chris Sabat might've stolen the show as Roy, the bereaved mercenary. The character has a surprising amount of range, and Sabat handles both comedy and pathos deftly. Allegedly, Sabat enjoyed the role so much that he got the same arm tattoo as Roy. It still has some rough edges – for example, Luci Christian's Kasha may be obnoxious to some – but for me, that's part of the charm. If you're hankering for a crusty old Funi dub, SoltyRei is a good candidate to revisit.

This release also comes with the series' two OVAs. They're sequential, and should be viewed at any point between episodes seven and nine.

SoltyRei is above all watchable. While it's cobbled together from parts of other works (most prominently Chobits and Bubblegum Crisis) it succeeds in telling its own story about families, both lost and found. Grounded in just enough pathos to be heartwarming while remaining reassuring, it's a great choice for when you want some lighthearted sci fi with a slightly retro flavor.
- Gabriella[TOP]

This week's shelves are from rosiethorns88, who wrote in the following:

"This is my collection from few years ago - right now most of my manga is in storage due to lack of space in a new condo. But while I had the room, I had fun with the display using some (highly sought-after) Ikea floating DVD shelf units. My anime collection is very limited to series I really consider my favorites. The wide shot is a different apartment with an updated movie shelf in the back. It features my movie theater-inspired living room complete with my cherished FF9 Figures."

Those manga shelves are way too cool! Thanks for sending those pictures in!

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


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