Shelf Life
One Piece: Season 7 Part 4

by Paul Jensen,

I've been having fun watching Dagashi Kashi this season, but I have found one problem with the show. It's the same issue I ran into back when I was doing episode reviews of Gourmet Girl Graffiti: I simply cannot watch a series about food without getting unreasonably hungry. Forget all the holidays that have already come and gone, I'm blaming anime for any extra weight that I pick up this winter. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
One Piece Season 7 Voyage 4

On Shelves This Week

Blade Dance of the Elementalers - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Right Stuf|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Kamito Kazehaya enrolls at Areisha Spirit Academy, a school for magic-users that normally only trains girls. His arrival causes an uproar among the rest of the students, but more dangerous problems may be in store for the mysterious male mage.

Extra: Out of the three shows I wrote episode reviews for in my first season with ANN, this is the last to come out on disc. You can read those old reviews here, or you can just take my word for it when I say it's supremely forgettable. You'll find it streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo BD, DVD
Funimation - 106 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98|$29.98
Currently cheapest at: $26.24 Anime Castle|$22.49 Anime Castle

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the third impact, Shinji Ikari wakes up to find that Nerv has been dismantled and many of his former allies are working against him. Shinji befriends Kaworu Nagisa and tries to continue the fight against the angels.

Extra: Well, this one certainly took a while to get here. While this movie came out in 2012 in Japan, it's run into a few delays on the road to a physical release here in the US. You won't find any official streaming sources for this one, but you can at least find a review of the previous movie here.

From the New World - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 625 min - Hyb - MSRP $99.98|$79.98
Currently cheapest at: $64.99 Right Stuf|$49.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Saki and her friends live in a seemingly Perfect World founded on supernatural powers, but their utopia is shattered when they discover an ancient artifact and learn the real history of how the world reached its present state.

Extra: From the New World is one of many shows that I've started, found interesting, and yet somehow never gotten around to finishing. You'll find a Shelf Life review of a previous collection here, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Night on the Galactic Railroad BD
Eastern Star - 105 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95
Currently cheapest at: $22.46 Right Stuf

Synopsis: On the night of a festival, Giovanni and Campanella catch a ride on the Galactic Railroad. The starfaring train takes them on a journey from one surreal place to another.

Extra: This movie came out on DVD a few months ago, which means that I get to recycle the synopsis I wrote for it back then. Score one for laziness! Take a look at this Buried Treasure article if you'd like to read up on the movie instead of listening to me brag about saving myself five minutes of work.

Pita-Ten DVD
Nozomi - 650 min - Sub - MSRP $49.99
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Kotarou's ordinary life is thrown into chaos when an apprentice angel named Misha moves in next door. Misha isn't exactly an expert on how life works on Earth, so her attempts at using her powers to help Kotarou tend to cause more problems than they solve.

Extra: While the manga it's based on made its way to the States back in 2004, this appears to be the first time that the Pita-Ten anime has been available here. That means no official reviews for the time being, so you'll have to rely on the user ratings which average out to around 7.0.

Shelf Life Reviews

This week's review is a bit of a follow-up on my foray into One Piece earlier in the year. Can lightning strike twice for the popular series?

One of the things I really like about reviewing anime is that it occasionally introduces me to a series that I might not have tried out on my own. One Piece's massive episode count is a pretty intimidating wall to climb, but after taking a shot in the dark a few weeks ago, I've found myself motivated to watch more of it. Along with watching the show from the beginning on my own time (I'm about twenty episodes in at the moment), I decided to spin the new release roulette wheel a second time with this set of episodes from season seven.

This set includes part of the “Impel Down” arc, which features Luffy breaking into an underwater prison in order to rescue his brother, Ace. With the rest of the Straw Hat crew scattered, Luffy turns to Boa Hancock to help him break in. Once he's inside, Luffy works his way down through the prison's various levels, fighting enemies and running into familiar faces from his past adventures. By the end of this set of episodes, he's managed to assemble a ragtag group of old friends and foes, all with their own reasons for wanting to break out of the prison. There's also a separate, self-contained story arc in this set that involves the Straw Hat crew defending an island from a rival group of pirates.

Luffy's attack on the Impel Down prison is emblematic of one of the qualities I've come to appreciate about One Piece as a whole: it's very good at balancing drama and entertainment. The show is light and fun for most of the time, but it's able to include some more serious moments in a way that feels natural. Ace's interactions with his jailors and fellow inmates are able to speak to a darker, bigger picture while Luffy punches his way through some very amusing fights. It sounds like a simple thing on paper, but mixing comedy and drama in an action series is a difficult thing to do. Many shows struggle with one or the other, and even those that can do both often have trouble alternating between light and heavy stories without including a few jarring changes of pace.

Part of what makes this particular story entertaining is the “reluctant allies” dynamic that it sets up between Luffy and the people he ends up breaking out of prison along the way. His chemistry with Buggy the Clown is especially strong, with Buggy constantly looking for chances to stab Luffy in the back and Luffy driving him crazy by ignoring even the most obvious attempts at betrayal. It's almost like Buggy is as trapped with Luffy as he was in his prison cell. It's a fun change of pace from other storylines that see Luffy surrounded by actual allies, though even the jailbreak group includes a friendly face with the inclusion of Bon Clay.

This all sounds like the buildup to another Shelf Worthy rating, and it probably would be if the Impel Down arc took up the entirety of this set. The problem lies with the four-episode filler arc. Looked at in isolation, it's just sort of bland: it's briefly amusing to watch the crew stumble upon knockoff versions of important places from their backstories, but the dramatic resolution is generic and underwhelming. The bigger issue, though, is the story's placement: it's tossed in right in the middle of the Impel Down arc, almost like a commercial break. That's actually not too far off from its actual purpose, since these episodes were originally aired as a tie-in to one of the One Piece movies. They might add a little extra context to the movie's story, but that's a pretty thin excuse for putting an otherwise compelling story on the back burner for four episodes. I'm all right with the idea of adding some filler content to a long-running series in between major storylines, but this is just obnoxious.

What we have here, then, is a good story interrupted by a pretty egregious waste of time. I've heard more experienced One Piece fans suggest that it's helpful to skip most of the show's filler episodes, and I think I understand why after watching this set. It feels a bit odd to have a positive opinion of a series as a whole while fighting the urge to skip entire storylines, but I suppose it's only natural to have some weak arcs when you're looking at hundreds of episodes. The Impel Down episodes are easily strong enough to make this release worthwhile, but I can't help wishing for a way to collect the show on disc without having to buy the good and bad stuff together. Maybe we'll see some kind of “greatest hits” collection one of these days.

That wraps up my part for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Dominic:

"Hey there,

I been looking at posts and seeing request to send in pictures for shelf life.

I have been buying books and anime related goods for about 17 years now (turning 31 this year) It counts more or less 1380 mangas. With some left over of what was once my DVD/Blu-Ray collection. I have mostly switched to buying figmas and such other larger figures over DVDs these days but i am still pretty proud."

I think we've got a few Saber figures in common, though yours outnumber mine by a pretty wide margin. Those bookshelves are amazing. Thanks for sharing!

Hey, you! Yes, YOU! Don't close your browser yet! Send me photos of your collection at [email protected] first! Then do whatever you were about to do before I started yelling.

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