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Shelf Life
Gatchaman Crowds Insight

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

I can always tell if a video game has me hooked by how often I catch myself talking to the characters. I bought a car racing version of all those sports manager games recently, and I've already fallen into the habit of berating my imaginary drivers every time they get passed on track. It feels perfectly natural in the moment, but I'm sure anyone who walked by would assume I'd gone insane. If it helps my little underdog team scratch out a win or two though, I'll keep on doing it. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Gatchaman Crowds Insight

On Shelves This Week

Aquarion Logos - Part 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: With Earth under attack by otherworldly monsters born from magical texts, Akira Kaibuki and his allies fight to protect the planet using their Aquarion machines.

Extra: While we don't have any review coverage for this entry in the Aquarion franchise, you'll find reviews of its predecessor here, here, and here. You can stream it on Funimation.

Asterisk War - Volume 2 BD, Limited Edition
Aniplex - 150 min - Hyb - MSRP $74.98|$114.98
Currently cheapest at: $59.98 Right Stuf|$89.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: With the Phoenix Festa tournament underway, Ayato and Julis face off against Irene and Priscilla, a pair of powerful sisters from Rewolf Black Academy.

Extra: We have a review of volume 1, along with episode reviews for the whole series. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and the Aniplex Channel.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: When a sinister organization uses the CROWDS technology to attack the Prime Minister, Hajime must return to action with the help of some new allies.

Extra: You'll find episode reviews for this sequel here, or you could just scroll down a little further in this very article. Your streaming options for this one include Crunchyroll and The Anime Network.

Good Luck! Ninomiya-kun - Complete Collection DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $24.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Ordinary teenager Shungo Ninomiya ends up living with a succubus named Mayu, and he's forced to help with a plan to help her get over her fear of men.

Extra: As was the case with the release of Omamori Himari a couple weeks ago, this series had previously been available on Crunchyroll but has since disappeared from that site. At the time of this writing, a couple of clips are available on Funimation.

Haganai: I Don't Have Many Friends NEXT - Complete Collection [Anime Classics] BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The misfit members of the Neighbors Club continue their everyday misadventures full of romantic tension and social awkwardness.

Extra: We have a couple of reviews of the first season in this series, which you can read here and here. You can stream both seasons on Funimation and Hulu.

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing - Complete Collection [Anime Classics] BD+DVD
Funimation - 575 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Hotshot pilots Fam and Giselle are drawn into a battle against the powerful Ades Federation after rescuing a princess from a rival nation.

Extra: I watched the original Last Exile, but I've somehow never gotten around to giving this sequel a try. Reviews are here and here, and it's streaming on Funimation.

Prison School - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf|$59.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The first five boys to enroll at the previously all-girls Hachimitsu Private Academy quickly discover that life at their new school is going to be far more difficult than they ever imagined.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with a feature article on its unique approach to humor. You can watch it on Funimation and Hulu.

Summer Wars [Hosoda Collection] BD+DVD
Funimation - 115 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Kenji Koiso's classmate Natsuki recruits him to play the part of her future husband at a family reunion, but turmoil within the family soon takes a backseat to chaos on a nationwide computer network.

Extra: I really like this movie, though if I had to choose only one Mamoru Hosoda film to watch it'd be Wolf Children. You'll find reviews here and here.

Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike [Anime Classics] BD+DVD
Funimation - 110 min - Hyb - MSRP $24.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Young knights Flynn and Yuri must overcome past disagreements if they are to survive a dangerous mission into ancient ruins.

Extra: I think I played a demo of the Tales of Vesperia game at some point, and I'm pretty sure I had no idea what I was doing. We've got a review of this movie here, and you can stream it on Funimation.

Shelf Life Reviews

James takes a look at Gatchaman Crowds insight for this week's review. How does it stack up compared to its predecessor?

Being a longtime fan of the similarly themed Super Sentai series, Gatchaman has always existed on the periphery of my vision, something I know I ought to check out but never ended up sitting down to watch. When Gatchaman Crowds premiered a few years back, I was excited to finally dig into an entry in the storied franchise, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I felt it flubbed the ending, especially since the US never got to see the extended OVA that explains what's going on in the final episode, but it was an enjoyable show overall. The biggest problem that I had with the original Gatchaman Crowds was probably its protagonist, Hajime. She's the bubbly, over-the-top, relentlessly cheery type that grates on the nerves very easily, and while I warmed up to her eventually, I could see how Hajime could easily be a deal-breaker for others.

Gatchaman Crowds insight offers a remedy of sorts. Taking place roughly a year or so after the first season, Insight follows Hajime and the rest of the Gatchaman as they revel in their newfound stardom while protecting Japan from a new and dangerous organization of cyberterrorists known as VAPE (short for Violent Ape, their summation of humankind). While VAPE runs amok across the country, an alien named Gelsadra shows up offering a potential cure for humanity's woes: the ability to project peoples' emotions into a literal sort of “thought-bubble” above their heads, to stymie any woes that misunderstandings and conflicts might produce. To top it all off, there's a new member of the team, an enthusiastic young girl named Tsubasa that Hajime takes on as her apprentice.

It's this final part that shakes things up just enough to differentiate this series from its predecessor. Tsubasa is our new protagonist for the season, and she gets just as much time in the spotlight as her gung-ho mentor, Hajime. While Hajime is still an acquired taste, she's balanced out by Tsubasa's level-headedness and likability, and thus the pair work well together both on and off the battlefield. I enjoyed seeing Tsubasa's trials and tribulations as the newest Gatchaman member, and her leveling out Hajime's shenanigans made the season overall much more even-keeled and consistently enjoyable.

What truly set Gatchaman Crowds apart carries over into Gatchaman Crowds insight: its deft blending of candy-colored CGI action and surprisingly thoughtful social commentary. These Gatchaman exist in a hyper-connected version of Tokyo where cultural integration into the internet is only a hair's breadth removed from our own society. Where the first season dealt with the perils and possibilities of such an overly connected society, Insight hones in specifically on the tensions produced when so many people have the power to transform their society with the push of a button, and the repercussions of not properly addressing such a system's pitfalls. One of the early episodes makes a sharp and deceptively lighthearted jab at this future, as a gaggle of naïve teenagers all use their cell-phones to vote for the next Prime Minister of Japan. “The whole thing makes it feel like a game!” one of the girls excitedly remarks, and maybe it's just the flavor of our own political climate right now in the US, but the inspection of this generation's tech-fueled political frivolity felt uncanny and unexpectedly intelligent.

Even if fairly gentle political satire isn't your bag, the rest of Gatchaman's story holds up well too. The mystery of who Gelsadra is and how it will tie into the VAPE threat is handled well, and aside from a few rushed plot points near the end, I'd say this season sticks the landing better than the first did. Some of the characters get sidelined more this season, but that makes sense, since we already got to spend so much time with them the first time around. None of the stories being told here are exceptionally groundbreaking, but they are smart and handled with care, and the Gatchaman are as good a crew of heroes as any to root for. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with them as they saved their world, and as overly neon-bright and hyperkinetic as things occasionally got, the core of the story remained grounded enough so as to never fully lose its way.

Sentai's Blu-Ray package delivers all 13 episodes of the season, which includes the half-length recap “Episode 00”. If there's any great drawback to Gatchaman Crowds insight, it's that even with its recap episode, a newcomer is apt to feel quite lost jumping into the series cold. It had been long enough since I watched season one that I still had to go back and catch myself up on some details, as the first few episodes assume a basic level of knowledge of both Gatchaman conventions in general and the main plot points of season one. While everything settled itself in eventually, just know that it takes a handful of episodes to do so, and a bit of patience might be required to feel fully caught up.

Specs-wise, this Sentai set delivers the usual materials: textless opening and closing sequences for extras, and an English dub for those so inclined. As far as the dub goes, it's fine, and I used it to watch most of the season. The one sticking point, as always, will probably be Hajime. Jessica Calvello adopts a valley-girl-esque affectation with her performance that feels true to the character, though it doesn't help at all if you find Hajime too much to handle to begin with. Like everything else with her character, the performance grew on me enough to tolerate through the whole season, but anyone that has Hajime-based reservations would do well to stick to the Japanese track, since her character quirks play out more naturally in the original language. For her part, Chelsea McCurdy does a fine job as Tsubasa, playing up the tomboyish nature of her character to balance out Hajime's own personality. If you absolutely require a dub track for your purchases, this one works just fine, so long as you know what you're getting into up front.

Gatchaman Crowds insight is a surprisingly thoughtful and consistently entertaining bit of work, and I'd heartily recommend it to anybody who enjoyed the first season, like I did. You'll probably want to check out season one first, to make sure the series' particular aesthetic is your thing before fully committing to a purchase, which is why I'm giving this a Rental. Either way, hopefully you'll come back to this improved second season. Its mix of action, comedy, and social commentary is deftly handled and feels more relevant than it ever has before.

That's it for this week's review section. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Stephen:

"Long time reader first time caller.

Sorry in advance but my collection is more gaming then anime, but I assure you, I watch a lot in my free time. My collection is a little disorganised since I like to bring things back and forth from school. Lately I've been collecting cels, my current prize being from Irresponsible Captain Tylor, but I'm looking to get a Dragon Ball Z, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop and infinitely more from my favourite show Giant Robo (love the classic stuff). I also like to get signatures from voice actors and artist (I'm that kind of guy), among which I prize my Stan Lee autograph, and Steve Blum on the Bandai release of Cowboy Bebop (and Legend of Korra), other than that my favourite Games are Mass Effect and Persona 4, which you can see in there, I just love collecting game stuff, Gotta get them all."

Wow, now that's an impressive set of gaming hardware. I see a lot of games that I've sunk countless hours into on those shelves, and the cels are awesome. Thanks for sharing!

I always need more shelves to share in this segment! If you've got a collection of your own that you'd like to show off, send me your photos at [email protected]!

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