Shelf Life
Date A Live II

by Paul Jensen,

I had a very small, very nerdy epiphany this week. I was shopping around for some new miniatures for the X-Wing tabletop game when it occurred to me that some things change very little from childhood to adulthood. I still play with little toy Star Wars spaceships with my friends, and the only obvious difference is that now the ships are more expensive and come with rulebooks telling you how you're supposed to play with them. I'm not sure if that's comforting, depressing, or a little of both, but there you go. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Date A Live II

On Shelves This Week

Akame ga Kill - Collection 2 BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98|$129.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.99 Amazon|$32.99 Amazon|$69.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Tatsumi and Esdeath are transported to a remote island populated by deadly enemies. Meanwhile, Night Raid and the Revolutionary Army prepare for a battle in the Capital while the organization Path of Peace fans the flames of rebellion.

Extra: We've got a review of the first collection in this series here, along with a full set of episode reviews here. You can watch it streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Assassination Classroom - Season 1 Part 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 275 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A junior high class of unruly slackers find themselves faced with the unusual challenge of killing their superhuman teacher before he destroys the world at the end of the school year.

Extra: Hey, I did the episode reviews for this one! You can read those here, and we've also got a full season review that you can read here. Both seasons are available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Black Butler: Book of Murder BD+DVD
Funimation - 123 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $26.24 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Ciel and Sebastian host a party for the most influential members of the London underground, but the event takes an unexpected turn when one of the guests is murdered. They must solve the mystery or risk being blamed for his death.

Extra: This OVA is related to the Book of Circus TV series that came out on disc last month, and you'll find episode reviews of that here. Book of Murder doesn't seem to be available streaming at the moment, but you can watch other entries in the Black Butler series on Funimation and Hulu.

Gunbuster - The Movie BD, DVD
Maiden Japan - 95 min - Sub - MSRP $39.98|$29.98
Currently cheapest at: $21.99 Amazon|$16.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Noriko Takaya aspires to follow in her father's footsteps by becoming a giant robot pilot, but can she and her fellow pilots handle the task of defending Earth from otherworldly invaders?

Extra: This movie is a compilation of the original Gunbuster OAV from 1988, which you can read a review of here. As is often the case with older titles that have changed licensors once or twice, there don't seem to be any official streaming sources.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
Date A Live II
Nothing this week.

Reviewing Date A Live II for this week's column turned out to be more of a challenge than I'd anticipated. My hands apparently like typing "Date A Life" better than "Date A Live," which led to a lot of angry grumbling while hammering on the backspace key. The good news is that the show was better than I expected it to be.

Is it just me, or is life getting increasingly tough for the protagonists of harem comedies? I feel like there was once a time when nondescript teenage boys just sort of wandered into houses full of buxom women, and the biggest danger most of these guys faced was occasionally getting punched into next week because of a vaguely humorous misunderstanding. Nowadays, it seems like you don't even get a chance to decide between the mysterious transfer student and the spunky childhood friend unless you unravel a few international conspiracies and save the world at least once or twice. Times are tough.

For folks who aren't familiar with the Date A Live series, the basic premise is that a mostly normal teenage boy named Shido has the ability to seal away other people's supernatural powers. This is pretty handy, since the area he lives in is constantly being visited by girls with supernatural powers, and they have a tendency to cause all kinds of mayhem and destruction whenever they appear. The only catch is that Shido must kiss the girls in order to seal their powers, which means talking them into going on a date with him. This second season introduces some new girls for Shido to date, along with some sinister third parties who want to use the girls' powers for their own nefarious purposes.

Date A Live reminds me a bit of The World God Only Knows with its “make girls fall in love with you or the world ends” premise, but I never found it quite as amusing as that series. Shido makes for a less entertaining main character than Keima, and the comedic chemistry within the core cast isn't as strong as it was in God Only Knows. That said, it does still have its moments, especially when Shido is trying to survive a date while a bunch of romance “experts” yell at him through his earpiece. When it embraces the absurdity of its premise and puts its energy towards making the audience laugh, Date A Live can be a reasonably fun series. Even if it tends to stumble whenever it tries to get serious, it's a decent enough entry in the genre.

As a sequel to the first season, Date A Live II faces some predictable challenges. In order to keep the premise fresh, it has to reach a bit further in coming up with gimmicks for the new girls. The results are a little underwhelming: feuding twins Kaguya and Yuzuru don't leave much of an impression, and pop idol Miku spends a long time being obnoxious before taking a turn for the sympathetic near the end of the season. They all have a few redeeming moments here and there, but the returning characters from the first season tend to steal the show. Part of the issue for me is that the dates the characters go on have lost some of their delightful absurdity. I miss seeing the city reconfigure itself Evangelion-style just to steer Shido and the girl of the week towards a romantic location.

The story also grows more complicated as more characters and factions are added to the mix, and the results vary depending on the story arc. Shido's island adventure with Kaguya and Yuzuru is watchable if unremarkable, and its dramatic ambitions are stifled a little by the extremely predictable resolution to the twins' dilemma. This set's middle episodes are its weakest, and the story dips down into “who the heck cares” territory as Miku is introduced and the sinister corporate villains set their master plan into motion. The good news is that the series gets its act together in the end, and the last few episodes are some of the season's best despite an inconclusive ending. Much of this improvement comes thanks to the return of Kurumi, who takes a break from her role as a recurring villain to forge a temporary alliance with Shido. She's a good “wild card,” adding a little unpredictability to an otherwise formulaic story.

The animation quality is acceptable for the show's harem comedy antics, but the visuals aren't quite up to the task of handling the numerous action scenes. They're not obnoxiously bad, but a bland action scene is typically a dull action scene. The voice acting on both audio tracks is competent without being spectacular, though Funimation does deserve a little extra credit for keeping the dub listenable during scenes where characters sing on stage. The set itself is about par for the course, with a couple of commentary tracks and a few other video extras on the discs. It's worth noting that there's a standalone OVA episode included along with the TV season, and it's actually pretty darn good.

As a harem comedy with some light novel sci-fi elements, Date A Live II gets the job done about as well as its predecessor. There's not much of a reason to watch it unless you're a fan of the genre, but it's a reasonably entertaining diversion if you are. Its value as a sequel will depend on what you liked about the first season. It loses some of its charm as a deliberately silly combination of fanservice and humor, but it does offer some decent drama in its final episodes. This is a series that does no more or less than what it promises on the box, so it's probably best to trust your instincts on this one.

That's it from me for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from ANN's own Amy McNulty:

"I've been collecting manga for almost twenty years, but I really started in earnest when unflopped manga became more common in the early 2000s. I'm an avid reader and I love having bookshelves filled to the brim. At some point, though, I started collecting more manga than books. I have so many volumes I have to double-stack the shelves. (There's another layer of manga behind all of these!)"

It's nice to know that I'm not the only ANN writer who likes Yotsuba&!. Thanks, Amy!

Want to show off your own collection? Good, because I need more collections to show off in this column! Send me your photos at [email protected]!

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