Shelf Life
Cutie Honeys

by Bamboo Dong, Gabriella Ekens, Paul Jensen,

Jump to this week's reviews:
Is the Order a Rabbit?
Soul Eater NOT!

On Shelves This Week

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! BD+DVD 1 (Collector's Edition)
Ponycan USA - 109 min - Sub - MSRP $89.99
Currently cheapest at: $71.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The boys of the Binan High School "Earth Defense Club" get a huge surprise when a trip to the bathhouse is interrupted by a pink wombat who asks them to save the planet. Their lives are changed the next day when they're given bracelets that allow them to transform into "Battle Lovers."

Thoughts: If you haven't yet experienced the wonder that is magical boys, you can get an idea of what you'll be in for with Amy's episode reviews and Rose's series review. You can watch the show streaming on Funimation, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero BD+DVD 3 (Collector's Edition)
Ponycan USA - 100 min - Sub - MSRP $89.99
Currently cheapest at: $71.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: One by one, the girls learn more about what it means to be a hero. Some have a hard time accepting it, while others seem to be resolved to continue even faced with adversity. Mimori, meanwhile, learns more about her past, as well as the truth about their new lives.

Thoughts: Good for those who enjoyed other darker series like Madoka Magica, this volume collects the last four episodes of Yuki Yuna is a Hero. Check out Theron's reviews of volumes one and two, or the episode reviews beginning here. The series is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Basilisk - Complete Series BD+DVD (Anime Classics)
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $44.98
Currently cheapest at: $25.90 Rakuten

Synopsis: The Kouga and Iga ninja clans have feuded for centuries. Now that the two clan leaders have fallen in love, their family ties are threatening to tear them apart. The former shogun has decreed that each clan will fight each other to determine who will become the next shogun, with one clan supporting one of Hidetada Tokugawa's sons, and the other supporting the other potential heir. Ten representatives from each clan will fight to the death.

Thoughts: This series was first released almost 10 years ago, but it's seeing new life yet again in a BD and DVD combo pack. You can see Theron's original thoughts starting at volume one. The series is also still streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Captain Earth - Collection 2 BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.44 Rakuten|$29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: Daichi and Teppai have managed to slow the attacks from the Planetary Gear, but it doesn't appear as though that will last, especially since the Midsummer Knights are beginning to show their own weaknesses. They're soon joined by another Livlaster, but betrayals around every corner soon bring the conflict to a boiling point.

Thoughts: Gabriella deemed part one Perishable, but we'll have a follow-up for you soon. For those who've seen the series, what are your thoughts? If you haven't had a chance to watch it yet, you can check it out on The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Haikyu!! Collection 2 BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.44 Rakuten|$29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: After the results of their last match, the Karasuno High School volleyball team resolves to keep practicing and working on their skills and teamwork, especially as the Inter-School tournament looms closer. Despite their rivalry, Hinata and Kageyama will have to figure out a way to set aside their differences to come together for the team.

Thoughts: Haikyu!! was one of my favorites when it was first simulcast, not only because it's a well-written sports show with vibrant characters, but also because the art direction is really fantastic. The animators did a great job making sure the movements look as dynamic as possible, which helped me a lot, since I personally don't find volleyball to be very enjoyable. Check out Paul's review of volume one here and Rebecca's thoughts here. You can watch the series online from The Anime Network, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Kawaii Complex Guide to Manors & Hostel Behavior
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $29.20 Rakuten

Synopsis: When Kazunari Usa's parents take on jobs abroad, they send him to live at the Kawai Boarding House. However, the tenants seem pretty strange, with perverts, masochists, and even a landlady who's okay with leaving weapons strewn around to protect the women. But things aren't so bad, especially since Usa's crush is living there too.

Thoughts: Produced by Brain's Base, the series was directed by Shigeyuki Miya, who's also directed projects like Blood Lad, Buzzer Beater, the Supernatural anime series, and a couple of Lupin III titles. If you're keen to check it out, you can watch it on The Anime Network, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

Kite Collection BD
Media Blasters - 107 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.52 Rakuten

Synopsis: This set includes both the Kite and Kite Liberator OVAs. The first follows a schoolgirl named Sawa who lost her parents in her teens to murder. She's now an assassin, but her life changes when she meets another assassin her age named Oburi. The two try to escape their lives of crime, but find that there are roadblocks in the way. Kite Liberator takes place several years after the events in Kite, featuring a new teenage assassin named Monaka.

Thoughts: Kite is kind of a cult classic, and one checking out at least once for those who can stomach some R-rated content. We have some older reviews on the site for Kite and Kite Liberator for those who want a taste. You can actually watch both dubbed on Hulu, or the latter subbed on Crunchyroll.

Shelf Life Reviews

With the large volume of anime releases that have been coming out this year, I've given into the temptation of lumping reviews together by theme, all while keeping an eye on the release schedule. I find it fun to compare and contrast genres or styles, like sports shows or music shows, or shows about magical girls. This week, Paul and Gabriella take a look at two shows that they independently labeled as "cute girls doing cute things."

First up, Paul with his review of Is the Order a Rabbit?.

If a mad scientist found a way to combine Wagnaria!!, Yuruyuri, and Polar Bear's Café into a single anime series, the result might bear a passing resemblance to Is the Order a Rabbit?. The show features a cast of quirky girls who work as waitresses and baristas, and there's a talking rabbit-like creature tossed in for good measure. Unfortunately, like many mad science experiments, it doesn't work quite as well as its creators probably hoped it would.

The five heroines of Is the Order a Rabbit? are distributed amongst three restaurants: Cocoa, Chino, and Rize work in a European-style café, Chiya works in a restaurant with a traditional Japanese aesthetic, and Syaro works at a novelty tea house where the waitresses all wear rabbit ears. While the three places are theoretically competing for customers, the girls are all friends and have adorable, comedic misadventures together. They make latte art, study for tests, try to play volleyball, and generally do their best to avoid anything resembling a plot. The talking rabbit is actually Chino's grandfather trapped in a rabbit's body, but his unusual predicament doesn't have much of an effect on the rest of the series. After all, why bother helping grandpa when there's coffee to be made?

So, yes, this is a show that exists for the sole purpose of being cute and funny. To its credit, Is the Order a Rabbit? is very, very good at the cute part. Every episode is a relentless onslaught of sweetness, and the series will hit you over the head with its lovability until you inevitably find yourself smiling at the characters' antics. The cast covers the usual range of personalities, from the impossibly cheerful girl to the cool and mature girl who secretly wants to be cute and girly. It's all pretty formulaic, but that doesn't stop it from working.

As far as the humor goes, the show generally sticks with safe, bland material for its jokes. You'll see most punch lines coming from a mile away, and they're rarely funny enough to elicit more than a brief chuckle. On the other hand, the comedy never runs too far off the rails and avoids falling completely flat. Frankly, the series doesn't seem particularly interested in going for big laughs. Its main goal is to be pleasant and silly, and that mission is accomplished pretty consistently. It's a bit of a shame that an English dub isn't included; this would be the perfect show to put on in the background if it weren't for the constant need to read the subtitles.

The one thing that truly holds Is the Order a Rabbit? back is its lack of any unique or memorable content. While most of the storylines take place in one café or another, it lacks the wit and precise comedic timing of workplace comedies like Wagnaria!!. A few of the girls have crushes on one another, but the show doesn't dwell on its romantic elements long enough to imitate titles like Yuruyuri and use that angle as a selling point. As much as the characters all talk about coffee and tea, I never felt like I was learning the kinds of interesting tidbits that Polar Bear's Café delivers (not to mention the fact that Tippy the rabbit is a poor substitute for Polar Bear). There's just nothing about this series that makes it stand out from the crowd.

Is the Order a Rabbit? sits squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to the “cute girls doing cute things” genre. It's not terribly unique or insightful, nor is it a comedic powerhouse. It is, however, perfectly good at doing what it sets out to do. This is one of those cases where it's safe to judge a book by its cover; you'll enjoy this show exactly as much as you think you will based on the premise and key art.
- Paul[TOP]

Rounding off our week of cuteness, Gabriella takes us to the cuter side of Death Weapon Meister Academy.

Soul Eater NOT! is true to its word: it sure isn't Soul Eater. Based on a spinoff of Atsushi Okabe's popular manga, NOT! can best be described as that show's sweet but underachieving younger sister. While the main manga is straight-up shounen action starring elite students at Death Weapon Meister Academy, Soul Eater NOT! is a sitcom about the school's underclassmen. Tsugumi Harudori is a newly discovered Magic Weapon – a person who can transform into an enchanted weapon in order to slay evil. She's shipped off to the DWMA, a school that specializes in training individuals with these powers, in order to control her abilities. As a freshman, she's placed in the NOT class. Unlike the EAT class, where Soul Eater's Maka Albern, Black Star, and Death the Kid are enrolled, NOT students are noncombatants. There, Tsugumi becomes fast friends with two aspiring Meisters, Meme Tatane and Anya Hepburn. As the three grow closer, both Meme and Anya want Tsugumi as their Weapon partner. But Weapons can only partner with one Meister! Can their triad survive Tsugumi's decision?

Right off the bat, the starkest difference between Soul Eater NOT! and its acclaimed predecessor is its art style. Soul Eater's look can best be described as a punk Nightmare Before Christmas. It's all cartoonified cutesy-horror. The Grim Reaper wears a foam mask, the sun a friendly grimace, and even the vilest villains look like they're wearing Party City Halloween costumes. It worked well – the animation's elasticity helped me buy into a lot of the more outlandish action scenes and dodgy world-building. But while the 2008 series was a lavishly illustrated 51 episode affair, NOT! is much more modest. It dispenses of much of this look for something more standard, especially when it comes to character design. Characters' limbs were shortened, their faces puffed up, and their clothes made bulkier. The effect is something like a low-rent K-ON!: cute, girlish forms that emphasize small inward movements over large outward ones. While that's fine, the faces can get dodgy. With their pouty faces and droopy eyes, it looks to me like every character has been stung by bees. It's especially disconcerting when they look totally different from how they did in Soul Eater YUP!. Maka and Death the Kid suffer the most in this regard. At least they're not around all that much…?

Like A Certain Scientific Railgun, a big draw to Soul Eater NOT! must be the pseudo-Sapphic interactions between the main girls. Sure, they call each other “friends,” but let's be real – it's not platonic to be that obsessed with your gal pal's boobs. While this personally isn't my thing, Soul Eater NOT! has less unfortunate baggage than other entries in the genre. For example, none of them molest each other. They also seem mutually into each other – their interactions are all loving and supportive. There aren't even any dudes who show up to het stuff up at the last minute. The show's story can best be described as a competition between Meme and Anya to become Tsugumi's exclusive partner, as mandated by DWMA. Tsugumi finds an alternate solution by successfully partnering with both girls – something previously thought impossible. If you go to anime for (subtextual) free love between girls, this is one of the less compromised ones.

If you like Cute Girls Doing Cute Things shows, you may like Soul Eater NOT!. If you don't, move along. There's nothing here for you. The plot's mostly just there, boring without being particularly effective. Shaula Gorgon – younger sister of Medusa and Arachne – uses her mind control powers to wreak havoc at the DWMA. Tsugumi gets mentored by Soul Eater main Maka Albarn, who is a senior at the academy.

Most of Soul Eater's voice cast returns. The new additions – Bryn Aprill as Tsugumi Harudori, Lindsay Seidel as Meme Tatane, and Alexis Tipton as Anya Hepburn – all do fine. Extras include episode commentary tracks on the part of the dub team and outtakes.

Despite light action segments, Soul Eater NOT! is for fans of slice-of-life moé and no one else. Familiarity with the larger Soul Eater franchise helps but is not required. Just remember – this isn't Soul Eater!, and don't go to it for that.
- Gabriella[TOP]

Our shelves this week come all the way from the Netherlands!

"Hey there! My name is Ingo from the Netherlands. I've been an anime fan since 2009 and I've been collecting anime and manga since 2011 (+ 1 DBZ VHS from somewhere late 90's). I took these pictures with my phone so the quality isn't too great, but I hope it's fine! As you might notice, my "shelf" is way too small to store all of my stuff. My others shelves are occupied by retro game consoles. I personally think it's a reasonably large collection with a mix of US, UK, Dutch and even French releases and quite a few out-of-print releases too. I'm especially fond of all the Rinne manga's and Ranma BD'sbecause I'm a huge Rumiko Takahashi fan. I've been reading Shelf Life for a few years now and have always been amazed at how big some people's collections are, so it I waited until mine got bigger before I'd send my pictures. At long last, I decided to do it and here they are. I also took pictures of my video game consoles as a bonus.

I do hope everybody enjoyed all these pictures, I took way more than I initially wanted to ^^'"

Thanks for the photos! I love your collection!

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

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