by Paul Jensen,
There are still a handful of premieres left to cover in the Preview Guide as I write this, and I've already added twelve of the shows I've written about to my personal list of things to watch. That's far too many for any mere mortal to keep up with over a full season, so I guess I'm going to have to get extra ruthless about dropping shows after a couple of weeks. Let the no-holds-barred battle for the top spot in my streaming queue begin! Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom - Season 1 BD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble
Synopsis: The search for her missing father leads Chizuru Yukimura to the city of Kyoto, where the soldiers of the Shinsengumi are locked in a bloody struggle against vampiric creatures called Furies.
Synopsis: High school freshman Yukitaka Tsutsui moves into a new apartment, only to find a young man already living there who claims to be an alien.
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine - Complete Series [Anime Classics] BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $44.98
Currently cheapest at: $31.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Femme fatale Fujiko Mine and master thief Lupin III meet for the first time, forming a rivalry that will propel them both to fame and infamy.
Synopsis: After starting a fight with a celestial dragon and running afoul of the powerful Bartholomew Kuma, Luffy finds himself stranded in the territory of Boa Hancock.
Synopsis: Ash and friends take on the Whirl Cup Competition, and must also contend with the nefarious members of Team Rocket and Ash's old rival Gary.
Synopsis: Junior high student Subaru's interest in the stars takes an unexpected turn when she and four other girls are recruited by aliens to help fix a stranded spaceship.
Shelf Life Reviews
In my endless quest to find information on every new physical release, I noticed we didn't have much coverage of the ghost-whispering comedy Re-Kan!. Well, consider that problem solved, because I took a look at it for this week's review.
The story follows the everyday misadventures of Hibiki Amami, a high school student who inherited the ability to see and communicate with ghosts from her deceased mother. When Hibiki transfers to a new school, her habit of talking to thin air initially raises a few eyebrows, but it doesn't take long before her classmates get used to it. The one exception is Hibiki's new friend Narumi Inoue, who is terrified of anything supernatural and really doesn't appreciate the fact that Hibiki's abilities seem to be contagious. Along with their group of friends, Hibiki and Narumi do normal high school things like studying, going on vacation, and helping dead people complete their unfinished business in the land of the living.
As simple as the core joke of ghosts being perfectly nice people may sound, Re-Kan! is able to get a lot of mileage out of it. This works especially well in episodes where traditionally scary urban legends are turned on their heads: the ghost in the school bathroom just wants to make friends, and the creepy voice at the site of a grisly murder is only looking for someone to talk to. As the show's perpetually terrified voice of reason, Narumi plays well against the rest of the characters, who quickly decide that all the supernatural stuff is no big deal. There's also plenty of the standard character-based humor that you often see in slice of life shows, but it tends to be a little less effective than the more distinctive spirit comedy.
As Hibiki and company help out the various lost souls that they come across, Re-Kan! is also able to work in a few sweet and sad moments. Some of the better moments include Narumi helping a young relative deal with a death in the family and Hibiki giving a teenage ghost the chance to say goodbye to her mother. For as much as the show deals with the concept of death, it doesn't really venture into outright tragedy. Every storyline at least ends with some emotional closure for the people involved, and episodes tend to wrap up on a heartwarming note. Hibiki's excessively kind personality helps out here, as she's often able to form some kind of meaningful connection with the people she's helping.
The biggest problem with Re-Kan! isn't with the series doing something wrong as much as it is with the series not doing things as well as it could. Both its comedic and emotional appeals tend to be light on impact, and it's usually only mildly humorous or slightly bittersweet. I smiled and chuckled a lot, but I never laughed uncontrollably or cried over any of the episodic storylines. The show makes its biggest emotional push in the last few episodes with a story about Hibiki losing her abilities, but it's no more effective or compelling than the content that precedes it. This is the kind of series that's perfectly pleasant to watch in the moment, but doesn't leave much of an impression behind.
For all its spiritual hijinks, Re-Kan! also never fully captures the sense of wonder or magic that you sometimes find in similar titles. I'm thinking specifically of supernatural problem-solving shows like Mushishi and fantasy-themed slice of life shows along the lines of Flying Witch. Both of those series are full of moments where ordinary people interact with otherworldly things in a way that plays to the viewer's imagination. By comparison, Re-Kan! makes it almost too easy to get used to thinking of its ghosts as ordinary characters. It's tough to really articulate the difference, but it's easy to see once you're looking for it.
This set is a fairly standard, no-frills affair with clean opening and closing sequences being the only extras of note. Audio and visual quality are both fine, and the show itself boasts some nice animation and attractive background art. On the whole, Re-Kan! is an enjoyable show that's worth a look if you've got a taste for lighthearted comedy or the slice of life genre in general. Don't expect it to knock your socks off, though, and I don't see it as something I'd watch again without a compelling reason to do so.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
No Shelf Obsessed entry this week, which means I need more anime collections to feature here. If you've got a shelf, closet, or dusty old cardboard box full of anime and manga goodness, send me your photos at [email protected] and I'll include them in a future installment. Go on, show off a little!
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