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Shelf Life
Turn A Gundam: The Movies

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

I got buried under a landslide of teenage nostalgia last week. First Sentai Filmworks announced that they were planning a new physical release for Azumanga Daioh, then Discotek Media did the same with Cromartie High School. I watched (and re-watched) the living heck out of both of these shows in high school, and they spent a long time as my go-to choices for subjecting my friends to anime comedy. While I've still got the old ADV thinpack collections of both series, it's still really cool to see them coming back into circulation. They're both very funny, and I still see new shows use similar comedic styles from time to time. If you're new to anime, check 'em out if you get a chance. As for me, I may just have to open my old sets up and take a little stroll down memory lane. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Turn A Gundam - The Movies

On Shelves This Week

Aldnoah.Zero Set 3 BD, DVD
Aniplex - 150 min - Hyb - MSRP $94.98|$39.98
Currently cheapest at: $74.98 Right Stuf|$29.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Now with the title of Mars Knight, Slaine takes part in battles against the Earth forces. The crew members of the Deucalion return to the ship as its repairs are completed and head off to a new battlefield.

Extra: If you're wondering why the title link points to the encyclopedia entry for the series instead of this specific release, it's because there isn't an entry for this set as of this writing. On the upside, we've got plenty of review coverage for Aldnoah.Zero: episode reviews are here, and a review of the previous set is here. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, or the Aniplex Channel.

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Maiden Japan - 100 min - Sub - MSRP $39.98|$29.98
Currently cheapest at: $23.99 Right Stuf|$17.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Students at Kisaragi Academy perform a charm ritual, not knowing that their school is built on the site of a gruesome tragedy. The ceremony unleashes an evil power and traps the students in a nightmarish world.

Extra: I'm not a big horror fan myself, but our users seem to think this OVA is a decent example of the genre with an average rating of around 6.9. That's about all there is to go on, though, because we don't have any official reviews and it's not available streaming in any of the usual places.

Giant Gorg - Complete Series DVD
Eastern Star - 600 min - Sub - MSRP $49.95
Currently cheapest at: $34.99 Amazon

Synopsis: After meeting the mysterious Dr. Wave in New York City, Yuu Tagami finds himself caught up in the search for a place called New Austral Island. What secrets does the island hold, and how is this all connected to Yuu's deceased father?

Extra: It feels like we've been seeing a lot of older mecha shows coming back into print lately, which is really cool since it gives folks a chance to see how anime has changed stylistically over the years. According to the publisher, this is the first time Giant Gorg has been available on disc in the US.

Kingdom - The Complete First Season DVD
Funimation - 975 min - Hyb - MSRP $79.98
Currently cheapest at: $59.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: While pursuing their shared dream of becoming great generals, Piao and Xin become tangled up in a treasonous plot. Piao is killed while trying to protect the rightful ruler, and Xin sets out on a quest to avenge him.

Extra: This set includes a hefty 38 episodes, and you can check out a review of the first eight here. You'll find it streaming on Funimation and Hulu if you want to give it a look.

Momokyun Sword - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $35.99 Right Stuf|$29.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After growing up in the company of a trio of animal gods, Momoko is recruited to join the fight against a rampaging army of Oni.

Extra: This series adds the Momotaro folktale to the list of things that have been reimagined with scantily clad women in place of the original main characters. You can read some episode reviews here or stream it on Crunchyroll, Hulu, or The Anime Network.

Naruto Shippuden Set 25 DVD
Viz - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $44.82
Currently cheapest at: $31.37 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Neither our encyclopedia nor any of the major retail sites seemed to have an actual synopsis of this set, so the best I can do is point out that it contains episodes 310 through 322. If there are any Naruto Shippuden fans reading this, lend us your expertise in the comments!

Extra: The good news is that we've got a review of the previous set here and episode reviews from 374 onwards here. Your streaming options include Crunchyroll and Hulu.

One Piece - Season 7 Voyage 5 DVD
Funimation - 320 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $29.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Luffy continues his mission to rescue Ace from Impel Down, and his descent through the underwater prison leads to a confrontation with the poison-powered Warden Magellan. When their fight leaves Luffy struggling to fight off Magellan's toxins, Bon Clay tracks down a prisoner who may be able to help.

Extra: The nice thing about having reviewed a portion of One Piece for this column is that I feel a little more like I know what the heck I'm talking about in the new release list. I'll have a review of this set's predecessor in the very near future, and you can read episode reviews here. You'll find the show streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.

Re: Hamatora - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $41.99 Right Stuf|$35.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The Hamatora detectives struggle to deal with some shocking revelations while Art gathers stolen powers in order to rival Nice's abilities.

Extra: You're fresh out of luck if you're looking for reviews of this season, but we've got some of the first season here and here. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Tamako Market - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $41.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Tamako has a fairly ordinary life as the daughter of a shopping district's mochi maker until she encounters a talking bird. The aristocratic Dera is looking for a bride for his island's prince, and his arrival will make Tamako's life significantly more complicated.

Extra: Tamako Market shares a director with K-On!, and it's kind of like a weird sibling to the popular music show. You'll find full series reviews here and here, and it's available streaming on Hulu and The Anime Network.

Wicked City - Remastered Special Edition DVD
Eastern Star - 80 min - Hyb - MSRP $24.95
Currently cheapest at: $17.99 Amazon

Synopsis: A human and a demon must work together to protect a two hundred year old man and ensure that a peace treaty between the human and demon world is renewed successfully.

Extra: Wicked City sounds like it should be the title of a metal album, though I suppose an action horror movie from the late 1980s is also a good fit. No official reviews for this one, but we do have an interview that covers the soundtrack's release on vinyl here in the US.

Yowamushi Pedal - Complete Original TV Series Collection DVD
Eastern Star - 900 min - Sub - MSRP $69.95
Currently cheapest at: $49.99 Amazon

Synopsis: High school freshman and lifelong anime fan Onoda has been riding his bike to Akihabara and back in order to buy toys since he was a child, and all that unintentional training comes in hand when he's recruited into his school's bicycle racing club.

Extra: This show can be a little goofy, but I love it anyway. Bamboo talked about this first season in a past column, and you'll find episode reviews of the sequel here. You can watch it streaming on Crunchyroll or Hulu.

Shelf Life Reviews

The Turn A Gundam TV series earned high marks when Gabriella reviewed it a while ago, and an interesting question leapt to mind when the compilation movies arrived in our review pile. Could a condensed version of the same story be just as compelling to a viewer who hadn't seen the full series? James took on the task of finding out.

Standing apart from the popular Universal Century timeline, Turn A Gundam follows the citizens of an alternate-history Earth who find themselves at war with the technologically advanced Moonrace, who bring mobile suits and a lust for war in their mission to take the planet as their own. A young man named Loran Cehack discovers that in the bones of the Earth lie mobile suits that the Earthers can use to fight back, but in doing so he finds himself caught in the middle of a war that will span the Earth and the stars beyond it.

Few franchises in anime have as storied and significant a history as Gundam, and Turn A Gundam is a series that seems to be pretty universally recognized as one of the top tier shows that the brand has to offer. When I popped in the first disc of the two-film Turn A Gundam set, however, I admit I was more than a little hesitant. These two movies, Earth Light and Moon Butterfly, are compilation films, one of the most inconsistent genres in anime when it comes to quality. While there have been some that I've enjoyed, such as those produced for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, most series compilation movies have left me rather ambivalent; carving twenty to fifty episodes of material into a couple of two-hour-long films is no easy feat, after all. With Turn A Gundam running fifty episodes, could I expect the quality of the series to be represented when condensed into only 260 minutes?

I'll be honest, the first film, Earth Light, does a pretty terrible job at making a first impression. The first fifteen minutes of the film offer an incoherent and slapdash attempt at storytelling. Characters and settings are introduced at an absurd pace and the film cuts to new scenes almost at random, with no rhyme or reason for a newcomer to parse out. Several of these opening scenes are even interrupted in the middle of conversations. At first I was convinced that the DVD was skipping around on me, and only on my second viewing of the movie's opening did I realize that my confusion was the result of the movie's editors trying to cram an episode or two's worth of exposition into about ten minutes of screen time. Eventually I was able to get my bearings on what exactly was happening, but only after a third viewing of the opening and a couple of detours to Wikipedia. Needless to say, this didn't give me high hopes for how the rest of Earth Light and its follow-up would go.

Imagine my pleasant surprise, then, when the film picked up drastically after those disastrous opening scenes. I found myself actually caring about Loran and his friends as they tried to navigate the precarious politics of war, and one subplot, involving the Queen of the Moon and a commoner from Earth who bears a striking resemblance to her, had me legitimately excited to see how things would play out. I wouldn't call Earth Light an unqualified success; it has a lot of trouble making a coherent 2-hour story out of twenty-plus episodes of television. Still, while Earth Light never quite achieves legitimate coherence as a movie, the charm and passion with which the characters and world of Turn A Gundam are drawn shines brightly enough to make the experience add up to be more than the sum of its parts.

The second film in the collection, Moon Butterfly, fares exponentially better than its predecessor. While still not a seamless product, Moon Butterfly feels cohesive and thoughtfully constructed in a way that Earth Light can't match; the narrative never lacks forward momentum, the characters' motivations and relationships are much more clearly established, and I never caught scenes being hacked apart mid-conversation for the sake of moving things along. In short, Moon Butterfly is an honest-to-goodness movie, and a pretty good one to boot. Even if the mostly space-bound setting isn't quite as interesting as the quasi-steampunk locales of the first film, the action and character development is more than enough to keep things barreling towards a satisfying and rather touching conclusion. Where the first fifteen minutes of the Turn A Gundam films left me baffled and disoriented, the final scenes gave me that bittersweet contentment that follows the conclusion of a genuinely worthwhile experience. If that's not a turnaround to commend, I don't know what is.

Recommending the Turn A Gundam films is something that must be done with a fairly hefty list of caveats. The aforementioned pitfalls of compiling a television series into a duology of films aside, the show's presentation is rather lackluster overall. The animation remains mostly passable throughout the majority of the films, though it can occasionally dip into being downright garish. The DVD set is produced by Sunrise and Right Stuf, and it's about as barebones as you can get. The two discs provided offer the movies, a Japanese audio track with accompanying subtitles, and that's all. If you have the time and money to access the full series, that's undoubtedly the better option, since you get everything good these movies have to offer, in addition to hours of additional story and a more coherent beginning.

And still, at the end of the day, I'm glad I was able to give these movies a shot. If you can, try and watch the series in full, but if you need a quicker Gundam fix, then Turn A Gundam: Earth Light and Turn A Gundam: Moon Butterfly might be just the thing you're looking for. Even though the editing and lackluster artistry marred the experience, especially in its early stages, the nuanced characterization and genuinely compelling plot was able to make up for it all in spades. I've been convinced to give the whole series a go when I get the chance, and any story that makes me want to experience it all over again counts as a success in my book.

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Ali07:

"Hi, this is Ali07 from the forums. Well, it's been over a year since I sent my original look at my shelves for this column.

If you look at the photos I sent in back in 2014, you'll notice that there's only one bookshelf there. Now, I've got about 4 shelves dedicated to anime, manga, and novels (though, all I've got that are anime/manga related are Haruhi, Deltora Quest, Kieli, and Rising of the Shield Hero). You'll also notice some things in my collection haven't changed at all…

My manga collection is the thing that has grown the most (in 2014, I did mention I had a list of manga I wanted to buy XD), with my figurine collection probably coming in 2nd.

My anime collection will be growing. You may see Inuyasha Final Act in there…and the reason I only own that (to date) is because Madman sold them for $5 a piece. I plan on getting the earlier seasons soon… just got to put away some money for them. Currently, I'm waiting on Zakuro (more people should watch that show) and SNAFU season 1 to arrive in the mail. XD"

And, yes, one bookshelf is double stacked.

That's quite the impressive collection. Long live double stacked bookshelves, and thanks for the update!

More shelves! More collections! I want them all! Send your photos to [email protected]!

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