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Shelf Life
Occultic;Nine Part 1

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

I don't think I fully realized how much I'd missed Mr. Osomatsu until the second season started. That show really is my kind of anime comedy: wildly creative, totally bonkers, and not at all afraid to toss the viewer's expectations out the window. While I'm plenty excited for this season's big-name titles, the antics of Osomatsu and company may very well end up at the top of my streaming queue. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Occultic;Nine part 1

On Shelves This Week

Howl's Moving Castle BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 119 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After an encounter with a mysterious wizard, a young girl named Sophie falls victim to a jealous witch's spell.

Extra: As you may notice while scrolling through this column, a lot of Studio Ghibli films are getting new releases this week. You'll find our most recent review of this movie here.

Hunter x Hunter - Set 3 BD, DVD
Viz - 299 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.99|$39.99
Currently cheapest at: $35.49 Amazon|$26.89 Amazon

Synopsis: Gon and Killua travel to Heaven's Arena, where they face increasingly tough opponents as they climb from one floor to the next.

Extra: We have a review covering this block of episodes, and you can stream the series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.

Kiki's Delivery Service BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 105 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: In order to prove herself as an aspiring witch, Kiki travels to a faraway city and starts up a flying delivery service.

Extra: Our most recent review of this movie is available here. Is it just me, or does it seem like merchandise from this film is everywhere these days?

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions: Rikka Version BD+DVD
Sentai - 96 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.89 Amazon

Synopsis: The events of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! are retold from Rikka Takanashi's perspective.

Extra: We don't have any reviews for this movie, but you'll find reviews of the related TV series here and here. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu.

My Neighbor Totoro BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 88 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After moving out into the countryside, Satsuki and her sister Mei befriend a large forest spirit named Totoro.

Extra: You can read our most recent review of this movie here. Again, I feel like I can't walk into a bookstore these days without seeing at least one piece of Totoro merch.

Orange - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $43.49 Amazon|$61.49 Amazon

Synopsis: High school student Naho Takamiya receives a letter from her future self with instructions on how to save a classmate from a tragic fate.

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

Shout! Factory - 103 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After a human boy rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, the two of them embark on an adventure that brings the worlds of land and sea crashing together.

Extra: You'll find our most recent review of this movie here. It's not exactly the best film of the bunch, but at least it looks pretty.

Princess Mononoke BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 134 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Amazon

Synopsis: As he searches for the cure for a deadly curse, a warrior named Ashitaka is drawn into a conflict between humans and the animal gods of a forest.

Extra: You can read our most recent review of this movie here. I really should get around to watching this one again. It's probably been a decade since I last watched it.

Spirited Away BD+DVD, DVD
Shout! Factory - 125 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.96
Currently cheapest at: $17.19 Amazon|$12.99 Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: After becoming trapped in a world of spirits, a young girl named Chihiro must find a way to rescue her parents and escape.

Extra: Our most recent review for the last of this week's many Studio Ghibli releases can be found here.

Super Lovers - Season 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 275 min - Sub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After struggling to take care of himself in the aftermath of his parents' deaths, Haru Kaido meets a teenage boy named Ren who claims to be his brother.

Extra: We have a review covering both seasons of this TV series, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Aniplex - 144 min - Sub - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Higashida's hectic life as a part-time waiter continues as a wave of bizarre romance sweeps through the restaurant.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with a review of the first Blu-Ray set. You can watch it on Crunchyroll.

Shelf Life Reviews

James takes a look at the first half of Occultic;Nine in this week's review. This supernatural thriller features plenty of twists and turns, but is it a journey worth taking?

Steins;Gate is one of my all-time favorite anime series, but for one reason or another, I've missed out on the other entries in the Science Adventure series (aka the anime with semicolons inexplicably dropped into their titles). I avoided Chaos;HEAd because of its reputation as a terrible adaptation of its source material, and Robotics;Notes came and went in a time where I simply didn't have enough room in my schedule to follow it. When Aniplex's new Occultic;Nine Blu-Ray landed in my lap for review, I was eager to catch up with another work from author Chiyomaru Shikura, even if the series itself isn't technically a part of the Science Adventure franchise. This is the part where I would include a brief, spoiler-free summary of Occultic;Nine's story, but that causes us to run into O;N's most glaring issue: the plot.

Simply put, the first few episodes of Occultic;Nine are borderline incomprehensible, ranking among some of the most confusing anime episodes I've seen in years. We start off on a cold-open featuring some bizarre tragedy involving the apparent drowning of dozens of random people in Tokyo, before being introduced to Yuta Gamon, an aspiring blogger who runs a website devoted to skepticism and debunking the occult. He's joined by Ryoka Narusawa, a girl whose primary character trait is her comically off-putting gigantic breasts. After this, the show goes on a whirlwind tour of disparate scenes and storylines that feature the seven other characters we'll be following for the rest of the series, a motley crew of weirdos that include a fortune teller, a cosplaying child detective, the son of a famous occult professor, a gothic witch girl, and her ghost friend. As Yuta begins to investigate the mysteries behind the recent tragedy, the lives of all nine protagonists slowly begin clashing in a variety of unexpected ways.

Beyond that, it's honestly difficult to communicate any specifics of what this show is about, because after watching six of the show's twelve episodes, I'm only just now starting to get a feel for where Occultic;Nine is even going. Thankfully, after getting through the first few rough episodes, watching everything unfold does become somewhat entertaining. Every episode introduces new and increasingly strange plot developments and paranormal devices, and after enough episodes of twists and turns, I can say that I am at least interested to see how it all unfolds in the end.

Unfortunately, interest does not necessarily equal excitement or enthusiasm. Even though the plot seems to have found its legs somewhat in the back half of this first volume, I can't help but feel lukewarm on the series because its characters are so underwhelming. From the get-go, O;N feels like it's aping shows like Baccano! and Durarara!!, which also feature improbably large casts getting into all manner of misadventures. Unfortunately, the nine key players of this story feel like little more than a collection of quirks running around trying to solve an impossible mystery. Yuta lacks the charisma necessary to carry the lead role, and poor Ryoka is more of a walking joke/fanservice opportunity than a three-dimensional character. Of the others, only Kiryu the sardonic ghost has made much of an impression on me. So much of the dialogue is made of exhausting exposition and inane banter that, despite spending so much time with so many different people, the protagonists of Occultic;Nine fail to make the impact needed to carry an entire series so far. There is one development that arises in the sixth episode that has the potential to change all that, but whether or not it will be executed well remains to be seen.

Despite my gripes with the show's writing, Occultic;Nine isn't lacking in the visuals department. A-1 Pictures does great work in these first six episodes, providing colorful and eye-catching visuals that complement the script's bizarre pacing and subject matter. Aniplex's Blu-Ray set features crisp picture and clear audio that does well to highlight the show's artistic sensibilities, which means that the Occultic;Nine is never a pain to watch. The dub included with the set is also a boon to anyone who prefers to watch without subtitles, which is honestly the option I would recommend with this show. While none of the featured cast deliver any standout performances, I found the first episodes easier to follow in English than in Japanese, and I imagine that remains consistent for the rest of the volume. Since O;N is a show that's more about unraveling plot machinations than anything else, I would recommend taking advantage of whichever audio format makes that easier for you.

The set also comes with some other physical goodies, which is always nice to see these days. The set itself comes with a premium slip case that's quite nice looking, and inside you'll find an art booklet, along with a collection of specially produced illustration cards. None of these additions are game-changers, but they do enhance the value of Aniplex's release, especially for collectors. Given that this collection retails for a hefty $80 online and only features six episodes, any added value is appreciated.

Despite my disappointment with how frustratingly inscrutable Occultic;Nine ended up being, I'm still giving it a Rental for a couple reasons. Production wise, Occultic;Nine is a well-done series, and there are bound to be people who'll appreciate its wild writing and pleasing visuals more than its lackluster plotting and cliched characters. More importantly though, I haven't gotten to see how all of this madness ends, and since reveling in O;N's twists and turns is the primary point of watching the show, I can't in good conscience dismiss the series without seeing it through to the end.

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

This week's shelves are from Anthony:

"Here's something for the next Shelf Obsessed: my anime collection. It's nothing mind-blowing, but at least it's a good start. As they say, everything has to start somewhere. Hopefully I will be lucky enough to obtain the rest of the GGG DVD set (if only Sentai Filmworks was kind enough to re-release it and GGG Final on Blu-ray, I wouldn't be doing this scavenger hunt). Now that I'm done ranting, I hope you guys have an awesome week."

A journey of a thousand shelves begins with a single DVD set, and it looks like you're off to a good start. Thanks for sharing, and for helping to get this segment up and running again!

That's right, Shelf Obsessed is back! If you'd like to show off your anime collection, send me your photos at [email protected].

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