by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
As I compile the lists of new releases each week, I can't help but notice that we've been seeing a lot of big, expensive collector's editions lately. I'd hesitate to spend over a hundred dollars on anything except my all-time favorite shows, but I can see the appeal of having nice versions of those titles. Then again, the only the only premium item I've gotten any significant use out of was the big chainsaw rifle that came with one of the Gears of War games.
What about you all? Do you like being able to have a nice display box for your favorite series, or would you rather have a more affordable but less impressive case? With streaming video becoming more and more ubiquitous, does it take a physical extra to make you consider buying a show on physical media?
No matter how you prefer to sacrifice the contents of your wallet to the anime gods, welcome to Shelf Life. Let's go check out some new releases.
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: The super-powered members of the Hamatora detective agency find themselves caught up in the investigation of a string of serial killings. Will they be able to save Yokohama from the schemes of a criminal mastermind?
Extra: Wouldn't it be convenient if there were a review of Hamatora in this very installment of Shelf Life? Oh wait, there is! Go read it, or watch the show for yourself on Crunchyroll or The Anime Network.
Synopsis: Young aristocrat Jonathan Joestar finds himself locked in a deadly rivalry with Dio Brando. Dio's pursuit of an ancient stone mask will shape both of their destinies and the fate of generations to come.
Extra: This release was originally slated to come out around two months ago, so fans of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure will likely be eager to finally get their hands on it. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can watch it online at Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: After moving from town to town, Momoko finally finds a place in her new school's survival game club. The other members are eccentric gun nuts, but Momoko might just be crazy enough to fit in with them.
Selector Infected WIXOSS - The Complete Series Standard and Limited Editions BD+DVD
Funimation – 300 min – Hyb – MSRP $64.98|$69.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.84 Rakuten|$40.29 Amazon
Synopsis: Teenage girl Ruko finds a special, sentient card while playing the game WIXOSS. The card allows her to compete in a mysterious realm where the champion is able to have any wish granted.
Extra: WIXOSS takes itself a bit more seriously than the average card battle series, which could explain why it's garnered some decent ratings (average of 7.1 amongst ANN users). You can watch the show online from Funimation.
Synopsis: With the Reptilian Empire defeated, the Getter Team begins training to operate the super robot Neo Getter Robo. When the Empire returns with a vengeance, their only hope may be to revive the legendary Shin Getter Robo.
Extra: We have no reviews for this one and there don't appear to be any legitimate streaming sources, so you're on your own here. Our user ratings are pretty positive, so maybe some charitable soul in the comments can shed some more light on these giant robots.
Synopsis: Dandy and his crewmates continue their search for rare aliens while evading the minions of the Gogol Empire.
Sword Art Online II - Phantom Bullet Part 2 BD, DVD, and Limited Edition BD
Aniplex – 200 min – Hyb – MSRP $79.98|$49.98|$114.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf|$39.98 Right Stuf|$89.98 Right Stuf
Synopsis: With the final round of the Bullet of Bullets tournament coming up, Kirito and Sinon team up to defeat Death Gun.
Tokyo Ghoul Complete Season Standard, Limited, and Collector's Editions BD+DVD
Funimation – 300 min – Hyb – MSRP $64.98|$69.98|$129.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.84 Rakuten|$40.20 Rakuten|$83.98 DVD Empire
Synopsis: After being attacked by a flesh-eating Ghoul, Ken Kaneki finds himself transformed into a half human, half Ghoul hybrid. He must learn to survive in Ghoul society while dealing with his monstrous new instincts.
Synopsis: D is hired to rescue a young woman who's been abducted by a vampire, but he's not the only one on the case. In order to get the job done, he'll have to beat the Markus Brothers to the punch.
Extra: If this release (and my synopsis) look familiar, don't worry. You're not going crazy; this is just the DVD version of Eastern Star's Blu-Ray release from two weeks ago.
Shelf Life Reviews
Our reviews this week run through a nice, wide range of anime tropes. We've got philosophical teenagers, crazy superpowers, giant robots, and genetically engineered monsters. If we had a magical girl in there somewhere, I'd stand up and call anime bingo.
First up is Patlabor WXIII, which varies ever so slightly from the other Patlabor movies in that it has a completely different set of main characters.
Instead of following the main characters from the rest of the franchise, Patlabor WXIII stars a pair of regular police detectives. Hata and Kusumi are put in charge of investigating a string of incidents involving Labor robots around Tokyo Bay. They eventually discover that the crimes are connected to a genetic engineering project with ties to the military. For Hata, the case becomes even more complicated because of his relationship with one of the key suspects. When a mutated monster starts going on a rampage, things become much simpler and the mech pilots of SV2 are called in to solve the problem. When all else fails, send in the giant robots.
No matter how you look at it, it's difficult to call this movie a genuine sequel to the rest of the Patlabor films. It was made nearly a decade after its predecessor, it has a different director and screenwriter, and the regular cast doesn't play a significant role in the story until the very end. As a result, it may be better to think of this as a spinoff instead of a continuation, a story that just happens to take place in the same fictional universe. Even with that perspective, fans of previous installments will likely be disappointed to see their favorite characters sidelined in favor of two somber, serious detectives. If all these changes kill your interest in the film, I can hardly hold it against you.
On the other hand, there's a reasonably solid movie in here if you can approach it without expecting the usual Patlabor experience. Hata and Kusumi are reasonably compelling characters, and it's nice to see a pair of protagonists who are a bit older and more seasoned than the teens and 20-somethings that typically dominate the medium. The plot unfolds carefully and methodically, with long periods of introspection and police work punctuated by a handful of well-crafted action scenes. While the man-creates-monster storyline feels a bit generic and underdeveloped, it possesses a human element that lends the ending some emotional weight. It's melancholy enough that I don't feel the urge to watch it over and over again, but it's a competent piece of writing and directing.
The visuals in Patlabor WXIII match the somber mood in terms of style and color, but the animation itself is quite good. The character designs are a departure from the stylized look that we often see in anime, trading flash for a respectable amount of emotional nuance in facial expressions. From simple fishing boats to complex robots and submarines, the mechanical design has a weighty, practical feel to it that I really like. All the industrial grit and half-abandoned locations give the movie a solid sense of place, making it easy to forget that this is a piece of science fiction when there aren't any robots or monsters on the screen. While it may have trouble selling its premise, Patlabor WXIII is very good at immersing the viewer in its world.
If you're a die-hard Patlabor fan, it's worth noting that this release also contains the Mini Pato shorts, a trio of CG shorts that feature the SV2 pilots and support staff explaining some of the technical details of the universe. There's a detailed explanation of the Patlabor mechs, a look at the giant handguns that they use, and a humorous story about a secret plan to solve the division's budget problems. All three are reasonably funny and adorably animated, and the first two are full of technical details to geek out over. In the context of the franchise, you could make the argument that they're more important than the movie they come bundled with.
It's tough to recommend either of the two parts of this release on their own. Patlabor WXIII asks a lot from the viewer in terms of accepting a new group of characters in place of the old ones, but it is a solid enough film to hold your attention throughout its running time. The Mini Pato shorts are a great extra, but they aren't substantial enough to justify paying the price of a feature film for around forty-five minutes of fun. The complete package might be worth the price of admission, but the value is just too subjective for me to call it shelf worthy. Then again, if you've already bought everything else in the Patlabor franchise, it might be worth it just to say you own the complete collection.
Next, we have Gabriella's review of the supernatural action series Hamatora.
The characters are named after random English words. The best is the villain, Moral. He's a serial killer who steals people's brains for mad science. There's nothing even slightly moral about anything he does. It's like he was named on opposite day. He tries to tempt Nice to the dark side, arguing that they're the only people who can understand each other. This is undercut by the fact that Nice has never, ever seemed lonely and is in fact constantly surrounded by friends. Instead, Moral succeeds at tempting Art, Nice's old schoolmate and the only one to make it through Minimum Holder Academy without ever developing a power. Art is resentful of this, even though it doesn't seem to have made any difference in his life at all. He's a police officer at seventeen, and lots of minimums seem to be dumb things like regular synesthesia or turning men gay with your sweat. (Really.) Overall, Hamatora does not adequately set up Art's fall, or anything else that has to do with the differences between minimum holders and normal people.
The discrimination storyline also fails. You see, Moral's plan is to win Nice's heart by giving everyone in society superpowers so that they can fight to the death. This involves inciting a race war, stealing people's brains, and embedding a secret message into a viral video that tells kids how to obtain guns. Needless to say, it's paper-thin. Moral talks about equality, but he really just wants to impress Nice (for some reason) with his Nietzschean fight club society. The nicest thing I can say is that it doesn't manage to be offensive. Some of the side characters are charming – for example, the teenage tech genius Honey and her beastly bodyguard Three – but they're ultimately as hackneyed as the rest. At least it all moves quickly from one crazy plot twist to another.
Overall, Hamatora's greatest success as a piece of entertainment is that I was never bored, but that's not to way I wasn't confused, irritated, and even made slightly nauseous. I'll cut to the chase: Hamatora is badly written. The plot is hackneyed and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The characters aren't unlikeable, but they're far from interesting, and I was most enthralled when discovering whatever ludicrous backstory makes them tick. For example, a character named Three (who is also my favorite in the series) is a kind-hearted former mercenary. He's raising an orphanage full of the people whose parents he murdered, under the expectation that they'd exact revenge on him some day. However, when enemy mercenaries burn down the orphanage, Three is left traumatized. In the present, he starts a new orphanage, which he successfully protects from mercenaries. These are the dramatic levels at which this show operates. I wouldn't recommend Hamatora for a hatewatch (it's a common, if especially potent type of bad – not something jaw-droppingly, unmissably terrible) but there were moments when I found its dopey sincerity charming. Three, for example, or their attempt at a Mephistopheles figure with Moral.
Visually, Hamatora is a reminder that experimentation doesn't necessarily lead to quality. Nice's minimum is often represented by using a thermal filter to color the frame bright blue, green, and red. This is supposed to represent his synesthesia, or ability to perceive sound as color. However, it's applied haphazardly, and often ends up looking more garish than anything. Sometimes it would even make me feel sick. Garish is a good word for this show's look in general. Its oversaturated faux-marker coloring reminds me more of Meganebu! than anything else. In terms of production competence, Hamatora often struggles to stay on-model. Characters are distractingly off in most shots, and this problem only gets worse as the series goes on. There are some inspired setpieces – say, the conference room full of lanterns where Art first confronts Moral – but these loud, gaudy strokes fail to obscure the basic ways in which this show is lacking.
Sentai has a history of making joke dubs, and I'm afraid that this is another entry in that inglorious tradition. Joke dubs are when the dub makes fun of the original material instead of sincerely translating it into another language. While Hamatora isn't a constant bombardment of this on the level of, say, Ghost Stories, you can see it in how certain lines were rewritten. For example, the plain Japanese “They're freaks. We should throw them all in prison,” becomes, in English: "They're a boil on the butt of humanity. we should let them rot in prison with the meth-heads." This is ridiculous, inaccurate, and untrue to the scene's tone. As this review indicates, I'm not a fan of Hamatora. I think that it's ridiculous and dumb. But it has fans, and they deserved a sincere translation. Not cool.
Hamatora will pretty much only work for you if you're on board with its character relationships. If you're into bishonen in intense, homoerotic friendships full of betrayal and mutual longing, then there might be something here for you. Fast-paced “humor” where the jokes are mostly people yelling at each other? Alright. Sure didn't work for me, though. Maybe it's like that frequency Moral embedded in the video, and I just can't see the appeal of this because I'm not fifteen. I hope that it's not telling kids to buy guns. Do not buy guns because anime tells you to.
That's all for this week. Get out there and watch some anime!
This week's shelves are from Frank:
"Long time reader and fan of Anime News Network and Shelf Life. I thought it would be nice to show you my shelves, walls, ceiling and any other place I can find to put anime. I don't know where to begin with these pictures, started collecting in 1995 and still collect today. I think I'm over a thousand figures, lost count. Two years ago, I put them all behind Plexiglas because I was tired of dusting them. Most prize possession is the Holy Bell statue made by Volks, they only made a thousand of them. Posters and wall scrolls everywhere you can think of, even the ceiling. Behind the scenes, I have over 500 soundtracks of anime, behind the Rei Ayanami wall scroll, there are over 400 volumes of manga and over 300 DVD's. The list goes on and on. The one question I do get all the time, is it insured? Well, it would be stupid not to. You can always see older versions of the room on youtube under Otaku Shrine / Anime Room 2010 or 2013 and ask any questions about the room there. Hope you like the tour."
If I had a collection that impressive, I'd insure it too. Thanks for reading and for sharing!
If you want to show off your own army of figures or library of discs, send your photos to [email protected]
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