Shelf Life

by Paul Jensen,

I picked up the first eight volumes of the Nichijou manga on sale recently, and I've been speeding through them at a ridiculous pace. If you enjoyed the anime adaptation (or are just in the market for a good comedy), I recommend checking it out. It's the kind of series that I can see myself re-reading on a regular basis, even after I've memorized all the jokes. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:

On Shelves This Week

Gurren Lagann - Complete Collection BD
Aniplex - 951 min - Hyb - MSRP $189.98
Currently cheapest at: $149.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In a distant future where most of humanity has been forced to live underground, two young men set out on a perilous journey to the surface world.

Extra: You'll find the first of several reviews for the TV series here, and we also have a review for one of the movies and an ANNCast episode on the series. You can stream it on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and the Aniplex Channel.

Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb - Season 4 BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $37.49 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: The girls of Yamabuki Arts High School continue their adventures as Sae and Hiro prepare to graduate.

Extra: We don't have any reviews for this season, but you'll find reviews for season one here and here. All four seasons are available streaming on HIDIVE.

Tokyo Ravens - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $49.81 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After surviving a supernatural incident, Harutora Tsuchimikado heads to Tokyo to join his childhood friend Natsume at a school for magic-users.

Extra: You'll find reviews for the first half of this series here and here, and reviews for the second half here and here. The series is available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

World War Blue - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Media Blasters - 70 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.99|$19.99
Currently cheapest at: $20.56 Barnes & Noble|$13.64 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: As the Segwa Kingdom faces annihilation at the hand of the Ninteldo Empire, a young warrior named Gear appears with the power to save Segwa.

Extra: We don't have any reviews for this video game parody series, but our user ratings are decidedly "meh" with an average of 5.4 out of 10.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.

If you've ever watched a fantasy series and thought "this needs more tanks," then this week's show has you covered. Here's my take on GATE.

Plenty of anime series involve a character traveling to a parallel world, but Gate takes a different approach from most of its contemporaries. Rather than trapping a single modern-day protagonist in a fantasy world, it leaves the door open for people from both worlds to travel back and forth. It also dumps the standard teenage hero for a Japanese Self-Defense Force officer in his mid-thirties, and while he doesn't have any special powers, he does have a whole lot of heavily armed reinforcements.

The show's title refers to a portal between worlds, which opens up in Japan. This is a problem because dragons, orcs, and a legion of soldiers immediately show up and wreak havoc. JSDF officer Yoji Itami happens to be in the area at the time, and his efforts to rescue civilians earn him a spot in the unit that's eventually sent through to the other side. After some more violent incidents with the locals, the Japanese government begins working to establish peaceful relations. As much as he'd rather keep his head down and focus on his otaku hobbies, Itami ends up being a key player in the interactions between the two worlds.

Gate is the kind of series that scratches a very specific itch: the instinctive military-otaku desire to drop a modern army into a fantasy setting and see what happens. If you've ever wondered what an attack helicopter would do to a medieval army or how a fighter jet would stack up against a dragon, Gate will be more than happy to answer those questions for you. It's also littered with references to well-known war movies and anime series; the famous helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now is referenced in detail, and the servant classes from Fate/stay Night are used as code names for commando units. If any of this sounds relevant to your interests, you'll probably have a good time with this show.

Thankfully, there's also enough substance behind all the tank porn and anime references to keep things entertaining for a more general audience. Gate boasts a reasonably strong cast of characters. Itami is a solid interpretation of the quietly competent slacker hero, his JSDF buddies cover a broad range of personalities, and several of the folks from the “other side” prove to be quite charismatic. Demi-goddess Rory Mercury steals just about every scene she's in, while beleaguered princess Pina Co Lada's struggle to broker peace between the two worlds makes for a compelling story. The overall narrative also features some intriguing twists and turns as both sides try to figure out how to deal with one another.

Gate also has its share of flaws, though I wouldn't call any of them deal-breakers. As fun as the major characters may be, the main plot takes up so much time that their development is limited. We get a decent sense of their personalities through their responses to each new crisis, but don't expect a wealth of deep character arcs. Some of the show's most intriguing ideas also fall by the wayside, whether it's the way the portal impacts Japan's relations with other countries or the possibility that the residents of the other side aren't all from the same world themselves. If Gate were to get a sequel at some point, it would do well to dig deeper into these areas.

It's also worth noting that Gate takes more of a political stance than the average anime series. It goes absurdly far out of its way to make the JSDF look good, to the point where every soldier in the show is depicted as being hyper-competent and dependable. Surely there must be a couple of cowardly jerks somewhere in this organization, but you wouldn't know it from what we see in the show. By the same token, most of the political drama on the Japan side feels heavy-handed and dogmatic. The good news is that most of this stuff isn't too obnoxious, and the series focuses on the more compelling aspects of its story for the most part. The political stuff is certainly present, but it's fairly easy to tune it out and enjoy Gate as a piece of fantasy entertainment.

Production values in the series range from decent to strong depending on the situation. While the character designs are pretty eye-catching, the animation does look a little rough here and there, especially in scenes that aren't action-heavy. The visuals are at their best when things start blowing up, thanks in part to the lavish detail that goes into all of the military hardware. The standard edition set that I reviewed ditches the physical extras of the limited edition but retains on-disc extras like the short animated comics. The English dub is solid overall with a few minor issues, with at least a couple of references getting lost in translation. It's perfectly listenable though, and I doubt you'd know you were missing much if you were to only watch the series dubbed.

So yes, Gate definitely feels like it was made with a specific audience in mind, and viewers who enjoy its particular brand of military-otaku-focused content will get the most out of it. That said, it's enjoyable enough as a fantasy action romp that I'd recommend it to some general audiences as well. It's a fun show with a good cast of characters, and it offers an interesting take on the idea of two different worlds making contact with one another. Unless you're deathly allergic to modern military fiction or too put off by its forceful pro-JSDF agenda, give it a shot.

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

This week's shelves are from Lesterf1020:

"While I very much enjoy seeing other people's collections I actually had no intention of sending in mine, primarily because I am not into esthetics, dusting or organizing. However, I needed some repairs done and it required moving my collection. I took some pics so I could remember how to put everything back and then decided what the hell. So here is my collection. I have been collecting since 2006 and I am a natural collector and pack rat which is why I have a habit of double dipping. I ran into issues figuring out what to do with all those SE/CE/LE boxes and I think I am happy with my solution. Incidentally the Danmachi box should not be alone for long. I plan to put the Monster Musume and Ushio and Tora boxes in that area. I am not much into manga and when you live in a dusty environment awaiting the imminent invasion of three nephews aged between 1 and 10, figurines are suicide.

I think my collection answers 2 important questions.

1. Who buys all those ecchi harem shows?

2. Does anyone care about shows from the 80's and 90's that are not classics?"

I like your display setup for the limited edition sets - if you're going to pay more for it, you might as well show off all that shiny box art. Thanks for sharing!

Want to show off your own collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!

discuss this in the forum (26 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

Shelf Life homepage / archives