by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
It's that time of year when putting together the new release list becomes more of an adventure than usual. There's a bunch of stuff coming out as publishers try to make it in time for the holidays, prices are all over the place as retailers fight over sales, and you can even expect a few last-minute changes to release dates. (If you're looking for the Gundam Wing or Revolutionary Girl Utena collector sets that were supposed to come out this week, it looks like they've been pushed back to later in the month.) As crazy as it all may be, I still enjoy going through the list and saying, "Hey, I reviewed that!" or, "Wait, this is out on disc already?" It's the final stretch of 2017, so let's get to it. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Clannad and Clannad After Story - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 1225 min - Hyb - MSRP $149.98
Currently cheapest at: $85.69 Amazon
Synopsis: High school students Tomoya and Nagisa must overcome tragic past events as they seek to rebuild their school's drama club.
Extra: We have reviews for both seasons of this famous tear-jerker series, which you'll find here and here. It was also the main topic of this episode of ANNCast. You can stream it on HIDIVE and Hulu.
Synopsis: As attempts to quarantine the infected Digimon fail, the only solution to the crisis appears to be a forced "reboot" of the Digital World.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 650 min - Hyb - MSRP $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $57.19 Amazon
Synopsis: Three survivors of a deadly plague must evade the agents of the Imperial Church, who seek to harness one survivor's hidden powers.
Synopsis: Tofu delivery driver Takumi Fujiwara is introduced to the world of street racing after outpacing a popular driver on a mountain road.
Extra: This movie is the first part of a three-film retelling of the original series. We don't have any reviews for it yet, but we do have a fairly recent review of the old TV series, which you can watch on Funimation and Hulu.
Synopsis: Inspired by the legendary school idol group μ's, high school student Chika Takami decides to an idol group of her own.
Extra: We have episode reviews covering both this season and the currently-airing sequel, and you may also want to check out this interview with the cast. Both seasons are available streaming from Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Mob Psycho 100 - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $46.20 Amazon|$52.27 Amazon
Synopsis: After suppressing his psychic powers for years, eighth-grade student Mob discovers that his pent-up emotions have the potential to cause massive amounts of destruction.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower BD, 4K BD [Import]
Right Stuf - 80 min - Hyb - MSRP $89.99
Currently cheapest at: $89.99 Right Stuf|$89.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the One Year War, pilots from the Federation, Zeon, and the South Seas Alliance battle for information on the infamous Psycho Zaku.
Synopsis: Peace has returned to the Earth Sphere, but the rise of a new threat forces the Gundam pilots to return to action.
Synopsis: The story of Luffy and Ace's past comes to light, and Luffy struggles to choose between getting his crew back together or pursuing a new path.
Extra: At this point, I've written so many plot synopses for One Piece DVD releases that I feel like I've absorbed some of these plot arcs by osmosis. Our episode reviews are here, and you can watch it on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
Pokemon Advanced Challenge - Complete Collection DVD
Viz - 1380 min - Dub - MSRP $54.97
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Amazon
Synopsis: While Ash and May travel through the Hoenn region, Team Magma and Team Aqua set nefarious plans into motion.
Synopsis: The final duel approaches, but Utena may need to do more than just win to achieve her goal of becoming a prince.
Extra: Since our more recent reviews don't really touch on this final arc, you're probably better off with this older review from the old Central Park Media DVDs. The full series is available on the Nozomi Entertainment YouTube channel.
Sailor Moon Crystal - Season 3 BD+DVD, DVD, Limited Edition
Viz - 312 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.99|$39.99|79.99
Currently cheapest at: $44.70 Amazon|$28.26 Amazon|$44.70 Amazon
Synopsis: The Sailor Guardians must defend Earth from a group of alien beings known as the Death Busters.
Synopsis: A young martial artist named Justice Akatsuka gets caught up in an international conspiracy after being given a tattoo that grants him special abilities.
Extra: I gave this show's first episode a lukewarm 2.5 out of 5 in the Preview Guide, and that was one of the higher ratings it received. You can check out the episode reviews to see how it fared over the course of the season, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Shelf Life Reviews
James is on review duty this week, taking a look at Flying Witch and its blend of magical adventures and everyday life.
As the title implies, the main character of the series is Makoto, a young witch-in-training who has the ability to fly on a broom, among other magical talents. However, when it comes to generally making it on her own, Makoto is a bit of a mess, so her parents decide to postpone the traditional witch journey of self-discovery when she turns 15 and send her off to live in the Japanese countryside in Aomori Prefecture instead. She lives there with her aunt Nana and her two cousins, the amiable Kei and his precocious little sister Chinatsu. While “normal” people aren't supposed to know about witches and witchcraft, Makoto has a habit of bringing the oddities of her supernatural life to bear on her humble relatives and their small town, which means life in the country is bound to get a little bit more magical.
While a lot of other series would take this conceit, and use it as the backbone for a madcap romantic comedy or a treacly love story filled with passion and drama, Flying Witch stays true to the iyashikei mold by opting to go for something simpler and sweeter, though the results might not be everyone's cup of witch's brew. Throughout the course of the series, we're introduced to a number of supernatural oddities: strange spirits, magical spells, witches who've been transformed into beastly hybrids, and even ghosts all come into play. None of these elements are sources of overwhelming tension, conflict, or drama though. They simply form the set dressing of the world in which Makoto, Kei, Chinatsu, and all their friends pleasantly spend time with one another. Even the girl who's been transformed into an anthropomorphic dog ends up being just another cute character to rounds out the show's gentle world. The stakes across these twelve episodes remain uniformly low, and most don't even rely on a strict plot to get the story going. In one episode, Makoto's eccentric older sister comes to visit and bring gifts from faraway lands. In another, Makoto takes her cousins to visit a local café that witches of the area like to visit. There aren't any villains or arguments between friends or any kind of forced drama. There's just a small town in a world that's a bit more wondrous than the one we're familiar with, filled with a cast of characters who just coexist there together.
If that sounds like a perfectly cozy way to spend a few hours of your time, then Flying Witch should definitely be on your radar, because it executes on its humble ambitions quite well. Makoto makes for an endearing protagonist, and her family of both witches and “normal” citizens play off her admirably; her relationships with Chinatsu and her older sister Akane are especially cute, making for some of the warmest stories in the set. Other characters do well with the screen time they're given; Inukai, the poor girl who was transformed into a literal furry after eating Akane's enchanted chocolates, was a favorite of mine, and I generally appreciated the subtle way the world was populated by both the magical and the mundane. Anyone looking for a deep dive into this world's magical mythology might be disappointed, because much of the show's appeal is in being naturalistic and mundane, which is something I personally didn't mind. Flying Witch wants to be a relaxing show, and at one point, it even managed to put me to sleep. This may be the only review I've written where that's meant to be a compliment.
Artistically, J.C. Staff does a fine job of translating Chihiro Ishizuka's clean, simplistic art style from the manga; while I can't say the show ever blew me away with its animation or production values, that's not really meant to be the point. Katsushi Sakurabi's workmanlike direction actually works in favor of the show's low-key aesthetic; this story is much more about dialogue and atmosphere than spectacle or visual flourishes. What the show might lack in attention-getting style is made up for in the consistency of its animation and its lush color palette, which is never less than pleasing to the eye.
Sentai's blu-ray highlights Flying Witch's aural and visual qualities well, and the set even includes some extras beyond the usual batch of trailers. We also get the dozen CG shorts that were made for the show, which are all worth a watch. The only area where the set may falter is in its dub, which isn't necessarily bad, but won't be to all tastes. Essentially, the dub team seems to have gone in a more naturalistic direction for its actors, making the dialogue as conversational as possible. Normally I would applaud this choice, but the direction leaves the cast delivering this dialogue in a somewhat stilted and awkward way. Stephanie Wittels makes for a good Makoto on her own, and the same goes for Adam Gibbs as Kei, Juliet Simmons as Chintasu, and so on for the rest of the cast. The problem arises when the characters interact with one another, as their inflections and tones just don't sound like they're having the same conversation. It's a minor issue, and it stopped bothering me much after a few episodes, so I don't think this will be a deal breaker for those who prefer dubs, but the original Japanese will be the ideal way to watch this show for most viewers.
Flying Witch is an unusual sort of Shelf Worthy, because while I know that I personally liked-but-didn't-love the show, I have to acknowledge that it accomplishes its own set of goals exceptionally well. The lackadaisical pacing and low stakes inherent to iyashikei anime might not be my go-to style of entertainment, but I cannot deny that Flying Witch does a wonderful job building a cozy world populated by a host of likable characters. If a healing anime is what you're looking for, this is a must-buy, and I would even recommend that those unfamiliar to the genre give Flying Witch a chance. With times as unpredictable and crazy as they are these days, there's a lot of joy to be found in small comforts like this one.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Timothy:
"Hello! Timothy here again. My shelves were published back in June 2017, but now that it's Christmas time, I want to share some figurines that come out to play only for the holidays.
There have been a lot of Asuka and Rei figurines over the years; these date from 2002. Asuka dressed like that, well, yeah. Rei?...not so much.
Miku-chan is also on hand, ready with whatever holiday music the family might want (I'd love to hear her rendition of "Santa Baby"!) And, Hello Kitty, of course, brings her own brand of holiday cheer.
Lastly, no Christmas tree is complete without Godzilla..."
Gotta love those seasonal figures. At this point, I'm pretty sure my family's Christmas tree has more Star Wars and Star Trek ornaments on it than normal ones. Thanks for sharing! (If you want to take a look at Timothy's previous Shelf Obsessed entry, you'll find it here.)
Want to show off your own collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!
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