Shelf Life
Actually, I Am...

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

For some reason, I've been on a mid-2000s anime comedy kick recently. It started off with a few episodes of School Rumble, and has progressed into Cromartie High School now that I've unearthed my old DVD set of that series. Not everything about these shows holds up, but a surprising number of the jokes still work. I guess dropping a robot, a gorilla, and Freddie Mercury into a crowd of high school delinquents was a good idea after all. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Actually, I Am…

On Shelves This Week

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club - Season 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.99|$69.99
Currently cheapest at: $43.79 Amazon|$45.99 Amazon

Synopsis: A rivalry between former swimming teammates Haruka and Rin leads Haruka to re-form the swim club at Iwatobi High School.

Extra: This season was previously released as a subtitled DVD set from Discotek, and you can check out a review of that version here. Both seasons are available on Crunchyroll, and the second is also available on Funimation.

Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu BD
Aniplex - 68 min - Sub - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In order to revive the vampire Kiss-Shot, Koyomi Araragi must defeat three powerful vampire hunters.

Extra: We have a review of this movie, along with part 1 and part 3. Unlike the various TV seasons, these movies don't seem to be available streaming.

Momotaro, Sacred Soldiers BD+DVD
Funimation - 90 min - Sub - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $24.79 Amazon

Synopsis: Folklore hero Momotaro oversees a Japanese military base during World War II with the help of his animal companions.

Extra: Produced as a piece of wartime propaganda, this movie is considered to be one of the first feature-length animated films ever made in Japan.

Shelf Life Reviews

This week, Gabriella takes a look at a lesser-known entry in the recent wave of monster girl shows with a review of Actually, I Am…

A strong contender for “vaguest anime title of all time,” Actually, I Am… was something of an anomaly when it came out in 2013. With an art style straight out of the early 2000s, it stood out from its moe-fied harem comedy peers – but not in a good way. While the premise itself (boy makes a harem out of the disguised monster girls attending his high school) is pretty evergreen, its sensibilities – the heroine's personality, the sense of humor, the light horniness – are from another era by now. This initial impression, however, belies some decent comedy chops.

Asahi Kuromine is a shy boy who learns that his crush, Youko Shiragami, is actually a vampire. Charged with keeping her secret, Asahi befriends Youko and learns that she's an upbeat and friendly girl, in spite of her monstrous heritage. To complicate things, Asahi's discovery sets off a chain of events wherein some of his other classmates are also revealed to be supernatural beings. Soon enough, Asahi is covering for his alien class representative, a demon principal, and a perverted, genderbending werewolf. Faced with so many interruptions, can Asahi manage to make his feelings clear to Youko? And will the world even survive the friendship between these wacky high schoolers?

So, yeah, this is stock material by anime comedy standards. But by this point, “normal person collects a coterie of crazy weirdos” shows survive more on the basis of their quality than their originality. After all, it's the writing, delivery, and presentation that ultimately separates Miss Kobayashi's Maid Dragon from bottom of the barrel stuff like Good Luck! Ninomiya-kun. On that scale of quality, Actually, I Am… lands somewhere in the middle. For its generic premise and visual deficiencies, Actually, I Am… contains moments of successful wacky/cute absurdity powered by a likable enough cast of characters.

While Asahi himself is yet another horny lame-o anime protagonist, the girls are pretty alright. My favorite is tiny alien girl Nagisa Aizawa. She rides around in a human-sized robot version of herself, like in that Eddie Murphy movie Meet Dave. The mechanics of how that works lead to some funny jokes, and she has an entertaining personality as the impotent rule-abiding hardass. She also pilots the show's best design, an adorable cat-faced UFO. After that, there's the haughty demon principal who's constantly foiled by her own childishness, as well as the intrepid student reporter/voyeur who'll literally torture people for a scoop. Youko herself is cute as an energetic, sheltered young woman. She's likable enough as a romantic lead, but she also suffers from some of the generic-ness that her role necessitates. The cast's main dud is Shiho the pervert. Her only trait is that she brings sex into everything, and her best joke – the fact that she transforms into her male werewolf version whenever she sees the moon – is sorely underused. Sex jokes need to be more than “haha she flashed her boobs” to be funny. Give me Ranma ½-level weirdness.

On the subject of the show's jokes, the best stuff happens when it goes fully absurd. I'm talking scenarios like Nagisa having to pose as an action figure, or the heroines force feeding a demon rotten food to prevent a meteorite from hitting the earth. Unfortunately, that amounts to less than half of the show's content. The rest focuses on the love triangle between Asahi, Youko, and Nagisa, which is about as tepid as it gets.

Aside from this, the biggest problem is easily the art style. This show looks janky even by the standards of the time period it cribs from. Personally, I blame it on poor adaptive character design. The original manga doesn't look all that different from Monster Musume, for example. It's just that the anime's character designer maintained and even exaggerated the characters' harsher angles in motion. The result is an aesthetic that looks not only anachronistic, but subtly “off” in many frames. Other than that, I like the designs fine. They have nice flat colors and are distinct from one another. It's annoying when all the members of a harem are just recolors of each other. Otherwise, the direction and animation consistently reaches the low end of competent.

Discotek's release is bare-bones, featuring only clean endings and openings alongside 13 subtitled episodes.

Overall, I'm giving Actually, I Am… a thin pass to rental shelf level by virtue of some solid moments of entertainment. I could see someone enjoying this if they were nostalgic for shows like Rosario+Vampire. It's colorful, fast-paced, and only boring around half of the time. I've reviewed at least ten worse shows than this before. Let's see – Nobunaga The Fool, Hamatora the Animation, Brynhildr in the Darkness. Yeah, Actually, I Am… isn't that bad. It got me to bring up Meet Dave in a column at least.

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

This week's shelves are from Marie:

"Thanks for featuring my Vampire Knight displays in your column two years ago! I thought you might like to see the Vocaloid displays I made after my trip to Snow Miku Sky Town last year :) I've been a big Vocaloid fan since 2007, and trust me, if it's Miku stuff you're looking for, Hokkaido is the place to go."

Wow, that's an impressive treasure trove of Vocaloid merch. It's always neat to see how collections grow and evolve over time, so thanks for sharing the new displays!

Hey, you! Yes, you! I need some more collections to show off in this column! Send me your photos at [email protected] and let the internet bask in the glory of your anime shelves.

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