by Paul Jensen,
By the time you read this, I'll be on my way home after going on vacation over Labor Day weekend. That means I'm writing this column earlier than usual in order to get it done before I leave, so hello from the distant past! It turns out time travel's easy as long as you get things done ahead of schedule. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: The members of the Fairy Tail guild face off against the demonic forces of Tartaros in order to prevent a major calamity.
Gundam Build Fighters Try - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 625 min - Hyb - MSRP $74.99|$59.99
Currently cheapest at: $45.38 Barnes and Noble|$36.30 Barnes and Noble
Synopsis: Seven years after Sei Iori's victory at the Gunpla Battle Championship World Tournament, middle school student Fumina Hoshino forms a battle team with two new friends.
Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite - Complete Collection DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Middle schooler Taro Hanaukyo ends up in charge of his grandfather's estate, which includes an enormous mansion and an army of beautiful, eccentric maids.
Synopsis: When a futuristic society is rocked by a mass suicide, Tuan Kirie looks to the past and the death of her friend Miach for answers.
Extra: This is one of several Project Itoh films that Funimation licensed recently, and we've got a review from its brief US theatrical run here.
Synopsis: As the Chaos Brigade sets a new plot into motion, Rias and the members of the House of Gremory prepare to fight back.
Synopsis: Thirteen years after the One Year War, Amuro Ray is called into action to stop his old rival Char Aznable from carrying out a major attack on Earth.
Extra: This movie has been available on DVD in the US in the past, and you'll find a review of one of those older releases here.
Synopsis: In a futuristic city where crime is kept in check by the all-knowing Sibyl System, a team of Inspectors and Enforcers take on a series of cases that may alter the foundations of their society.
Extra: We've got a lot of review coverage for this first season, including this review of the previous premium collection. We also have a feature article on the series, and you can stream it on Funimation and Hulu.
Synopsis: Sakura and Rinne face new dangers and awkward love triangles as they continue their work of helping lost souls move on to the afterlife.
Synopsis: Yuya Sakaki dreams of becoming a famous duelist by mastering a new summoning technique, but many rivals stand in the way of his journey to the top.
Extra: I wasn't able to find this particular entry in the franchise streaming in any of the usual places, so you'll have to settle for some preview clips.
Shelf Life Reviews
I grabbed Punch Line for this week's review knowing only that it was kind of an odd show and that its plot had something to do with underwear. Considering those humble beginnings, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be pretty entertaining.
The series follows the story of Yuta, a seemingly ordinary guy whose life gets complicated in a hurry when someone kicks his soul out of his body. This leaves Yuta as a disembodied spirit, floating around his apartment building in search of a magical book that will allow him to return to normal. In the meantime, he has to deal with an obnoxious cat spirit that seems to know more about his situation than it's willing to tell him. All of that would be inconvenient enough, but Yuta also has to worry about the world ending in catastrophic fashion if he happens to see the underwear of any of his four housemates. When you're an invisible ghost that can pass through walls, this is a bigger hazard than you'd think.
Punch Line throws a lot of ideas and subplots at the audience in the early going, and it can come across as a mess. On the positive side, it's the kind of energetic and colorful mess that stirs up curiosity instead of frustration. It made me want to keep watching in order to find out what was going on, where a less compelling show would've made me want to eject the disc and walk away. Part of that is down to some nifty visual direction in the early episodes, along with a script that gives the impression that this story is actually going somewhere. Crucially, Punch Line is able to walk a fine line with its underwear-centric premise, using its surprisingly tame fanservice as a means to an end instead of a convenient crutch.
Once the initial sensory overload wears off, the show hits a couple of rough patches. The plot gets kind of clunky near the middle of the series, as alternate timelines are added to the mix and characters begin to reveal their complicated backstories. It's not so much a pacing issue as one of emotional investment; the process of answering old questions and bringing up new ones works fine, but I didn't care enough about the characters to get swept up in the process. As Yuta started to figure out the truth behind his situation, I found myself watching more out of curiosity to see where the story was going than out of concern for the characters involved. The girls that live in Yuta's apartment building have some interesting backstories and are generally tolerable, but they don't leave much of an emotional impression.
The good news is that the last few episodes are able to stick the landing. The multitude of storylines and character arcs are brought together in a satisfying way, and the handful of twists keep things interesting without coming across as unearned or arbitrary. We get a flashy, climactic showdown at the end, and the vast majority of loose ends are eventually tied up. It helps that this is an original series; there's no ongoing manga or light novels to keep the story from coming to a definitive conclusion.
On a technical level, Punch Line is above average in a few important areas. The colorful art style and ambitious visual direction are all well and good, but it's the strong animation quality that really makes them work. While the music within the series is nothing to write home about, the opening and ending sequences both feature catchy songs and creative visuals. I'm a little sad that this release from Sentai Filmworks doesn't include a dub, as Punch Line is the kind of over-the-top series that you might show to a new fan in search of something weird and unique. That gripe aside, this set is par for the course as a standard no-frills release.
Punch Line is definitely an imperfect series. Its approach to storytelling might be too scatterbrained for some, and it never really manages to endear the characters to the audience. Still, it can be an enjoyable show if you give it room to be wild and crazy. Perhaps most importantly, I can see myself going back and watching it again, if only to see how well the early episodes work once the viewer knows what's going on. That desire to rewatch something seems to be getting rarer as every season brings a new crop of fun and compelling shows, so credit to Punch Line for being creatively unhinged enough to hold my interest after the end of the last episode.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Justin:
"Hey ANN my name is Justin. So this submission to shelf life is a little bit different because it's not a picture of my current collection but rather a display of every anime and manga related thing I bought on my recent summer vacation trip to Japan. I also spent some time traveling around China and attended an event similar to Comiket in Shanghai, I also picked up a few things from some anime shops I know of in the Beijing area.
The image really only shows one anime figure (Nanoha), but I actually acquired 4 other ones that are not pictured - Shinobu from Nisemonogatari, Shutterfly from My Little Pony, Rin from Kodomo no Jikan and a Nanoha nendoroid. There are two tapestries (wallscrolls) in the image but they are still rolled up. One is of an original character from an artist named Yosai Kuchu, known for character designs for the Makai Tenshi Djibril VG series. The other one is an image of Charlotte Dunois from Infinite Stratos wearing her nekomimi pajamas.
To get an idea of scale there are 5 CD's in a row on the lower right hand side of the full-size image. If you have any questions about any particular item feel free to send a PM to the username "Past" and I will explain or send more images.
And yes I did fit all this stuff, plus my clothes in a single carry-on sized suitcase. I had some additional carry bags for additional clothes and other personal items, souvenirs I couldn't fit inside my suitcase.
Quite an impressive amount of stuff for one trip. That must've been one heck of a carry-on suitcase. Thanks for sharing!
If you've got an anime collection or a massive amount of convention loot that you'd like to show off, send me your photos at [email protected]!
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