Shelf Life
After War Gundam X Part 2

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

I think I've been doing this unconsciously for a few seasons now, but I've figured out a method of watching simulcast shows that's been working well for me. I follow the episodic comedies and slow-paced slice of life stuff from week to week, then start the more dramatic stuff halfway through the season once there are enough episodes that I can binge my way through a story arc if I feel like it. The only problem with my system is that I always end up having to dodge spoilers for the shows that everyone really wants to talk about online. Nothing's perfect, I suppose. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
After War Gundam X Part 2

On Shelves This Week

Assassination Classroom - Season 1 Part 2 BD+DVD
Funimation - 275 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The students of Class 3-E continue training to defeat Koro Sensei, but first they must contend with a dangerous new teacher and a battle against Class A over final exams.

Extra: We've got reviews of part 1 and the whole first season, and you may also want to check out the feature article I wrote on the series recently. You can stream the show on Funimation and Hulu.

Blood Blockade Battlefront - Complete Series BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Aspiring photographer Leonardo Watch is unexpectedly recruited into Libra, a secret society that keeps the peace between humans and beings from other worlds.

Extra: We've got episode reviews, a full series review, and a feature article for this one. You can watch it on Funimation and Hulu.

Charlotte - Set 1 BD
Aniplex - 170 min - Hyb - MSRP $94.98
Currently cheapest at: $74.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Yu Otosaka is part of a small percentage of adolescents with special abilities. An encounter with honor student Nao Tomori will lead him to discover the fate that awaits people with powers like his.

Extra: You'll find episode reviews for this series here. It's streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, the Aniplex Channel, and Viewster.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal - Set 1 DVD, BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Viz - 322 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.98|$69.98|$79.99
Currently cheapest at: $31.22 Right Stuf|$51.73 Barnes and Noble|$62.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Normal middle school student Usagi Tsukino's life is changed forever when she gains the ability to transform into the magical girl Sailor Moon.

Extra: We've got episode reviews for this series here, along with a feature article. You can watch it on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

Punch Line - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.29 Barnes and Noble|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High schooler Yuta Iridatsu has his spirit separated from his body, and must fulfill some very peculiar conditions to return to normal and prevent the end of the world.

Extra: We've got episode reviews for this odd little series here. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Trinity Seven - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Arata Kasuga enrolls in a magical academy in order to master his newfound powers and prevent disasters like the one that destroyed his hometown.

Extra: You can read some episode reviews for this series here or watch it for yourself on Crunchyroll.

Shelf Life Reviews

James returns to complete his journey through After War Gundam X this week. Let's see how the show's second half compares to the first.

The first volume of After War Gundam X left me feeling pretty underwhelmed, mostly due to the sluggish pace and scattershot scope of its first ten or so episodes. While things definitely picked up from there, the poor first impression was enough to leave me wary of unequivocally recommending the set. Would the second half offer much of an improvement over the first?

Now that I've gotten through Volume 2 and finished the series proper, I can tell you with certainty that the series definitely continues its upward climb in quality. Does it end up being an unqualified recommendation? That's a bit more complicated.

Let me get this out of the way first: Gundam X's greatest problems were its egregiously slow pace and the lackluster characterization that came along with it; both of those problems have been largely corrected in this final volume. As the war between the New United Nations Earth (New UNE) and the Space Revolutionary Army (SRA) ratchets up, After War Gundam X sees Garrod, Tiffa, and the crew of the Freeden hurtling headfirst into the conflict. The scope of the series is much more clearly defined, and the storytelling and characterization are all the better for it.

The thing I enjoyed most about this second half of the series was how well it established new characters, such as the spunky fighter pilot Pala Sys, while fleshing out and enriching the ones we already know. In the first half of the series, it took forever for me to start caring about the motley crew of pilots, scavengers, and Newtypes that make up the principal cast, but now that the proverbial pedal has been put to the metal, the show wastes little time in providing the context and characterization necessary to make the latter half of this story work. A lot of that is certainly due to this being the back half of a 39-episode long anime, but there is an urgency to the writing and direction in this second batch of Gundam X that I found sorely lacking in the first.

That urgency doesn't just provide for more engaging characters; the underlying themes and world-building of the show are equally bolstered in this volume. For example, the Newtype-worshipping SRA is given a layer of extra humanity and fanatical verve that also adds a lot of thematic weight to the struggle of Newtypes such as Tiffa. The show deals with questions about the fundamental nature of humanity and whether or not humankind can willfully evolve past its baser origins. Though the themes were a little cliché even twenty years ago, they highlight an admirable sense of philosophy that might otherwise have been lost in the shuffle of mecha-driven warfare.

Not everything is improved in this set, however. The improved pace came at the behest of a reduced episode order, which was itself the result of some unfortunate budgetary setbacks. While it generally benefits the series, the strain put on by this shortened episode order can still be to its detriment. The last handful of episodes feel especially rushed, cutting corners in plot advancements and rushing past character introductions in order to get us to the ending. Since there isn't quite enough time to set up both an epic final battle and a thematically appropriate conclusion to the main characters' stories, the final set of episodes ends up falling short.

It might seem weird to complain about a show being both too slow and too rushed, but Gundam X never quite finds that happy medium between the two states. This is nothing that absolutely ruins the show, but I can't help but feel that if the series were allowed to hit its stride and fill out a proper 50-episode run, it might have truly earned a place amongst the top tier of 90s anime. As it stands, After War Gundam X is merely pretty good, with a number of flaws that prevent it from being truly great.

On a technical level, this set is identical to the first, meaning it has the final twenty episodes of Gundam X subtitled in Japanese-only audio, a handful of clean opening and ending themes, and not much else. The subs themselves contain a small number of noticeable typos, which might irk some people (such as myself), but aren't frequent enough to be entirely distracting. The audio/video quality is much the same as well, though I didn't notice the washed out colors as much as I did last time; whether that's a result of the transfer or my own fallible eyesight is anyone's guess.

In the end, I enjoyed my time spent with Gundam X, even if the show took its sweet time getting on my good side. It's hardly without flaws, and it's never quite as smart or compelling as it wants to be, but the series ends up doing a fine job in spite of itself. I can't give it my fullest endorsement, since so much of this show's quality is dependent on the viewer's patience and tolerance for cheap-looking animation, not to mention a heaping helping of 90s flavored cheese. If that doesn't sound immediately interesting to you, you probably aren't missing out on much. For anyone else that's willing to suffer through a rough patch or two before they get to the good stuff, give After War Gundam X a shot. It just might be worth your time.

That wraps up this week's review segment. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Aaron:

"My name is Aaron, and this is the second time I have sent in pictures of my collection. It's been a few years since the first time I sent in photos, and a lot has changed since then. I graduated from college, went back to college, and even went on my first trip to Japan. While all that has been going on, I have been buying more and more junk. Sorry if some of my books are blocking others, I have only so much room."

Seeing those Gundam Wing figures still in their boxes is bringing back all kinds of nostalgia for me. I love it, thanks for sharing!

I'm still looking for more anime collections to feature in this segment! Send me your photos at [email protected]

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