Shelf Life
Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto

by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,

Here it is: the last Shelf Life of 2017. I'll be doing a proper "year in review" next week, so for now it's business as usual. Thank you all for sticking with us this year, and welcome once again to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto

On Shelves This Week

Barefoot Gen - Movies 1 and 2 BD, DVD
Discotek - 170 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.95|$19.95
Currently cheapest at: $19.47 Right Stuf|$12.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: An elementary school boy named Gen struggles to survive in the aftermath of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

Extra: We have a review of these films from a previous DVD release back in 2006. The first movie was also the subject of a Buried Treasure article.

Kiznaiver - Complete Collection BD
Aniplex - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $149.98
Currently cheapest at: $119.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Katsuhira Agata becomes a test subject in the "Kizuna System," which divides the effects of any injury to an individual amongst all of the system's members.

Extra: You'll find episode reviews for this series here, and it was also the topic of an ANNCast episode. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lupin the Third Part 2 - Collection 2 DVD
Discotek - 880 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.95
Currently cheapest at: $41.84 Amazon

Synopsis: The adventures of Lupin and his companions continue as they take on more dangerous heists.

Extra: We have an old DVD review for this series, and you can stream it on Crunchyroll and Hulu. Be aware that Hulu only appears to have the first 79 episodes, while Crunchyroll has the full 155.

Occultic;Nine - Part 2 BD
Aniplex - 144 min - Hyb - MSRP $99.98
Currently cheapest at: $79.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As the truth behind the Inokashira incident comes to light, Yuta struggles to accept the reality of the situation.

Extra: James reviewed part 1 here on Shelf Life a few months ago, and we also have episode reviews for the full series. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Photon: The Idiot Adventures - Complete Collection DVD
Discotek - 180 min - Hyb - MSRP $19.95
Currently cheapest at: $12.97 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Photon, a young man with incredible physical strength, must help a runaway space pilot escape from the galaxy's evil emperor.

Extra: While we don't have any reviews for this late-nineties OVA series, it did make at least one appearance on The List. Our user ratings are reasonably positive, averaging a 7 out of 10.

Project ARMS - Complete Collection DVD
Discotek - 1200 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.95
Currently cheapest at: $45.47 Right Stuf

Synopsis: High school student Ryo Takatsuki finds himself in the center of a secret conflict for control of powerful weapons known as ARMS.

Extra: This set contains both the original series and its "2nd Chapter" sequel. We have a review from a previous release, and it also made a brief appearance in an old installment of Shelf Life.

Riddle Story of Devil - Complete Collection DVD [SAVE Edition}
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $19.98
Currently cheapest at: $13.99 Amazon

Synopsis: In a survival game where the winner will be granted any one wish, professional assassin Toukaku Azuma abandons her mission to protect a fellow competitor.

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

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. - Season 1 Part 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $47.44 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Saiki Kusuo tries to keep a low profile despite having psychic powers, but his eccentric classmates constantly cause trouble for him.

Extra: The ratings for this comedy series were all over the map in our Preview Guide. It's available streaming on Funimation if you want to check it out for yourself.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. - Season 1 Part 2 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $47.44 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The comedic misadventures of teenage psychic Saiki Kusuo and his quirky friends continue.

Extra: Yep, it looks like both halves of this first season are coming out on the same day. For what it's worth, our user ratings for the series have a pretty strong average of 7.9 out of 10.

Yowamushi Pedal: The Movie BD+DVD
Discotek - 90 min - Sub - MSRP $24.95
Currently cheapest at: $15.19 Amazon

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the Inter High race, Sakamichi and the members of Team Sohoku are invited to another competition against top teams from around the country.

Extra: No reviews for this sequel movie, but we do have episode reviews for the TV season that precedes it. Both this movie and the TV series are available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Shelf Life Reviews

James reviewed the high school comedy Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto this week, and he found it to be both absurd and absurdly funny.

Sakamoto is a genius high-schooler with so many talents and skills that he isn't just the coolest kid in his class; he may be the coolest teenager ever. Literally nothing fazes him, so whether he's dueling a vicious wasp with the end of his precious protractor, engaging in the most high-stakes adult video store heist of all time, or just taking some time to bring his classmates together through the power of black magic, Sakamoto goes through life perpetually calm and collected. The people who surround him are their own brand of bizarre, and Sakamoto's incredible coolness usually ends up sucking all his friends and classmates into the crazy adventures that make up his everyday life.

Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto is one of the dumbest things I've ever seen, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. While many of the show's central gags do indeed revolve around the wacky misadventures of the titular Sakamoto, the real source of this series' obscenely infectious humor and charm comes from just how crazy these high-schoolers get over the dumbest things. It isn't just that a wasp sneaks into the classroom; Sakamoto has to use his impeccable fencing skills to literally do battle with the vicious insect, and he looks positively badass doing it. The class' resident show-off is so defeated by Sakamoto's incomprehensible coolness that he doesn't just give up on trying to make Sakamoto look bad; instead, the husky teen insists on devoting his life to becoming the class clown that only makes jokes related to bees, all while dressed in nothing but black-and-yellow striped boxers.

In another vignette, Sakamoto is coerced by a trio of delinquents to help them check out some pornography from the video store. What ensues is a physics-defying heist that is so over-the-top that Lupin III himself might cry foul. It involves Sakamoto manipulating the wind with his body to sneak through the 18+ ONLY curtain, using terrible dance moves to distract nosy onlookers, and out-smarting the store manager with pure force of will (and a wristwatch Sakamoto draws on his arm with a marker).

To overexplain any more of the show's gags would be to risk ruining the joke the series' foundation is built upon, but the point remains: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto is incredibly stupid. Every episode takes familiar and well-worn high-school comedy tropes and pushes them to their breaking point, using Sakamoto as a kind of amplifier that pushes everyone around him into levels of absurdity that are, more often than not, gut-bustlingly hilarious. That the characters and scenarios on display here are rooted in the familiar is what makes it all work so well. Sakamoto's reality is utterly ludicrous, to be sure, but you come to believe in it all the same. Characters like Acchan and his delinquent buddies are initially painted as little more than stereotypes, but their hang-ups are so asinine, and Sakamoto's retribution is so silly, that they end up becoming just as likeable and relatable as anyone else in the cast. By putting a magnifying glass to the stories that tend to make up most anyone's high-school experience, Haven't You Hear? I'm Sakamoto ends up lighting all of the needless melodrama and clichés on fire, leaving only a funhouse mirror's reflection of teenage life that somehow feels truer to the experience of adolescence than most drama-heavy stories ever become.

Don't read this and think that Sakamoto's stories make up some kind of avant-garde high art project, though. This show has one concern, and one concern only, and that is to induce as many belly- laughs and bewildered chuckles in its audience as possible. Studio DEEN and series director Shinji Takamatsu go to great lengths to maintain the madcap spirit of Nani Sano's original manga, and the results are closer to a high-school comedy version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure than anything else. The artwork is fluid and flexible, alternating between bright, poppy colors and overly dramatic, bold shading, essentially adopting any style or tone necessary to sell a gag. If you're looking for a dramatically rich and thematically complex exploration of high-school life, you won't find it here. If you want to revel in some of the most idiotically funny comedy to come out of an anime in recent years, though, Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto might just be for you.

Sentai's Blu-Ray collection is an excellent way in which to enjoy the series. The picture and audio quality are all top notch, and though the disc is predictably lacking in any on-disc or physical extras (you'll have to shell out for the super pricey collector's edition for those), it does include an English dub, and a rather good one at that. Director and ADR Writer Kyle Colby Jones does an admirable job here in preserving the original Japanese's manic and exceedingly weird tone, and the cast all work to remain within their archetypal roles while also selling the fundamental humanity of these deeply silly characters. Chief among them is Houston Hayes' take on the titular Sakamoto, who perfectly embodies the character's trademark unflappability without losing the strange edge that makes the character so endearing.

Is absurdist, gag driven humor your kind of thing? Are you the kind of viewer who is willing to put up with some exceptionally dumb gags that are executed with expert timing, skill, and wit? Do you like to laugh? If you answered “Yes!” to any of these questions, then Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto should shoot straight to the top of your holiday shopping list. This is one of the easiest Shelf Worthy ratings I've given out in a long time, because this series was a delight from beginning to end.

That wraps things up for now. I haven't had a chance to get a Shelf Obsessed entry ready due to my hectic holiday travel schedule, but it will be back up and running next week. Thanks for reading, and see you in 2018!

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