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Shelf Life
Divine Gate

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

It's Preview Guide time again! There have been a couple of nice surprises this season, along with some big-name titles and a few genuine stinkers. Check it out if you haven't already, but first we've got some new releases to sort through! Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Divine Gate

On Shelves This Week

GATE - Complete Collection BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $99.98|$79.98|$199.98
Currently cheapest at: $57.49 Amazon|$45.99|$114.99 Amazon

Synopsis: When a gate to a parallel world appears in the middle of Tokyo, JSDF officer Yoji Itami joins a reconnaissance force tasked with exploring the other side.

Extra: We have a review of the first half of this series, along with episode reviews for the whole thing. Some retail sites are reporting a later release date for the limited edition set, so be aware of that if you're thinking of buying it. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Junjo Romantica - Season 1 BD
Right Stuf - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $54.99
Currently cheapest at: $34.38 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Three male couples navigate the ups and downs of love and romance.

Extra: You'll find reviews of a previous release of this season here and here. All three seasons are streaming on Crunchyroll, and season 3 is also available on Hulu.

Kumamiko - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $47.28 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: When young shrine priestess Machi decides to travel to the big city, her talking bear companion Natsu puts her through a series of trials to prepare for city life.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, and it's available streaming from Funimation.

Kuromukuro - Set 2 BD
Ponycan - 310 min - Hyb - MSRP $150.98
Currently cheapest at: $120.98

Synopsis: As scientists from around the world gather at Kurobe Dam to study a mysterious artifact, an ancient samurai awakens to defend the world from an invading force.

Extra: Same story as the recent release of set 1: reviews for the two halves of this series are here and here, and you can stream it on Netflix.

Mobile Suit Gundam MS Igloo - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 270 min - Sub - MSRP $64.99|$49.99
Currently cheapest at: $40.63 Amazon|$31.25 Amazon

Synopsis: The crew of a Zeon warship are tasked with developing new weapons to counter the Earth Federation's powerful new mobile suits.

Extra: We have a review for the Blu-Ray version of this set, along with an older DVD review.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 70 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.99|$24.99
Currently cheapest at: $21.88 Barnes and Noble|$14.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Near the end of the One Year War, soldiers from Zeon and the Earth Federation clash amid the wreckage of destroyed space colonies and warships.

Extra: While we don't have any reviews for this compilation movie, we do have one for volume one of the related manga. As far as I'm aware, it's not currently available from any of the usual streaming sources.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.
Divine Gate

James and I have both reviewed some perishable shows over the last few weeks, but Gabriella may have found the worst of the bunch with Divine Gate. Here's her review of the fantasy action series.

Sing along with me: “My name is Gabriella and I'm here to say/that I've encountered a stupid anime!” Now, before you stop to bask in my songwriting prowess, know that this isn't anything special on its own. I watch a lot of dumb anime, both on and off the job. It's just rare that I encounter one quite as narratively inept as the show we're covering today: Divine Gate.

This is, of course, a mobile game adaptation. Its premise amounts to a combination of ideas from Fullmetal Alchemist alongside generic people-with-powers stuff. One magic gate showed up and gave people elemental powers. People want to get to the gate because it grants wishes but it's kind of hard to find. So King Arthur starts an academy of magic teens to help him find it. King Arthur is also best friends with Santa Claus, who is a generic bishonen man. (Look, this makes as much sense to me as it does to you.) Our three heroes wind up going to this academy, where they participate in bland antics and exposit about their various damages. Eventually, they'll tag along on King Arthur's quest to find the gate.

So already, this is an incomprehensible half-shrug of a story. But it gets even better (read: worse) when they try to inject some drama into this mess. Protagonist Aoto has the most cartoonishly “crying in my skin” abuse backstory that I've seen since Chaos Dragon. (Another Shelf Life entry and anime disasterpiece.) His parents lock him in a shed, feed him rotten food that later gets eaten by a dog, spoil his identical twin brother, the works. The best part is that an older Aoto is now constantly visited by/hallucinates a smiling ghost child who tells him stuff like “nobody will ever love you” and “just like your cold heart, you can only eat cold food” with the most blasé tone in the world. These scenes happen at least once an episode, by the way. I went back to check the preview guide responses after the fact, and everyone gave this show a 1 while describing all this in detail. It's so bad that it loops back around to being funny. (Not that this show is worth hatewatching all the way through. Like most full-length anime, it's too long to maintain that sort of attention.)

And that's somehow not even the worst part. All of the characters throughout the entire show are accompanied by extradiegetic tone poems that explain their deals in overblown metaphoric language. These deals are all, of course, super cliché anime tragedy nonsense, so it all just results in bathetic melodrama. Really, I'm just amused that the show has the gall to try and play off its massive failure of “show, don't tell” into a narrative technique. That's not the funniest thing in the show as a whole, though. That's a dude named Loki calling Santa Claus to tell him about the “Blue Christmas incident,” in which 666 people were killed by a guy with a magic katana. Anime.

At least it's not a colossal visual failure as well as a narrative one. That's not to say that it looks great - I've just seen way dumpier productions for these sorts of things. Someone on staff cared enough to give this show a distinct, consistent aesthetic, at least. I actually like the high contrast shading alongside the dull color palette. And while there isn't a ton of animation, the show is generally on model. I'm not really a fan of its grunge-via-dafont.com style, but I'll take it over the paste-like non-aesthetic on productions where nobody seems to truly give a damn. The character designs, meanwhile, can be best summed up as “designed for a smartphone game.” They're all pretty generic anime battle teens color-coded according to their elemental powers. The nice thing is that they aren't colossally overdesigned (that's saved for the villains) and look nice in action. There's also some decent CG integration here. They'll switch between 2D and 3D in fight scenes and it isn't immediately obvious. I think it's because the character designs work well for that. Either way, there isn't even that much action in the show, so you can't just turn your brain off in order to experience the pretty-ish colors.

I watched the show dubbed and it wasn't good, although I can't really blame the cast too much on this one. It's not really possible to inject a lot of emotion into some of this dialogue. There were some scenes where I had to go back and check that the adaptive scriptwriters weren't making up joke dialogue, it got so bad. At one point, King Arthur says, “I like empty fish tanks. They have the potential to be filled with anything.” A character responds with “huh, I get that!” while another is like “I prefer them with fish.” That is a real exchange in this show. Out of the cast, Chuck Huber seems to be having the best time as cackling villain Loki. I'm glad that someone had fun working on this. There's an episode commentary with him on it and it's just all the VAs laughing about Santa Claus.

I can't recommend Divine Gate to anyone, but it is one of the less boring garbage-tier shows I've had to cover during my tenure as a reviewer. That counts for something in my book. I still have no idea how or why that bishonen guy is supposed to be Santa Claus. He just looks like a generic pretty boy, but they reference him delivering presents? Has Santa always been a young anime man in this universe, or is this a Tim Allen in The Santa Clause situation? Did he kill the old Santa and take his place? Or does Santa reproduce somehow? Well, we'll never know, since they're never making more of this anime. Right?

That wraps things up for this week. Don't forget to send your photos to [email protected] if you'd like to see your collection featured in Shelf Obsessed. Thanks for reading!

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