Trickster Part One
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
Hey, Valentine's Day is this week! Go watch some mushy romance anime, or maybe take out your romantic frustrations with something from the horror genre. Or, you know, just catch up on all those simulcasts. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Trickster Part 1
On Shelves This Week
Akiba's Trip: The Animation - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: When nefarious creatures infiltrate Akihabara, it's up to self-declared otaku Tamotsu Denkigai and his mysterious ally Matome Mayonaka to stop them.
Extra: I wrote our episode reviews for this loose adaptation of the similarly-titled video game. It has a few moments of inspired lunacy, but it was a little too inconsistent for my liking. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Synopsis: Rin is imprisoned after releasing blue flames in a moment of anger, but the group soon faces bigger problems when Todo resurrects the Impure King.
Synopsis: The wizards of Fairy Tail face off against Tartaros and the giant dragon Acnologia in a desperate final battle.
Extra: Our review coverage doesn't quite stretch into this set of episodes, with our most recent review covering the run just before this set. You can stream the full series on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
Food Wars! The Second Plate - Complete Collection BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98|$59.98|$169.98
Currently cheapest at: $39.99 Amazon|$38.99 Right Stuf|$110.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: As the Autumn Elections tournament moves into its next round, Soma and his fellow competitors are challenged to make the ultimate bento box.
Extra: We have episode reviews for this season, and you can also read my take on the first season here. (Short version: I liked it.) The series is available streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu.
Synopsis: Seven directors explore the universe of the Halo video games in a series of short films.
Extra: I was torn over whether or not to include this release on this week's list, but we do have an encyclopedia page for it and it was put together by some big-name anime directors, so here it is. You'll find it streaming on Netflix.
Synopsis: Gon and Kilua must investigate after a mysterious group steals Kurapika's Scarlet Eyes.
Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this movie, but our user ratings are pretty positive with an average of 6.9 out of 10. You can watch the related TV series on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.
Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On - Season 1 Part 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: A young boy named Lute dreams of becoming a monster Rider, but he will need the help of his friend to make that dream a reality.
Synopsis: Young Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum is dismayed to end up with an uncooperative Pikachu as his first partner, but the two of them soon form an unbreakable bond.
Synopsis: In between their life-and-death battles to protect history, the incarnations of famous swords deal with daily life at their home base.
Shelf Life Reviews
James takes a look at the first half of mystery series Trickster in this week's review.
There are several strapping young lads involved in this updated interpretation of Ranpo's Boy Detective's Club, but the primary focus is on three of them. Kensuke Hanasaki is a hyperactive adrenaline junkie with a passion for sleuthing who gets tangled up in the woeful life of a mysterious young man named Yoshio Kobayashi, who possesses a mysterious energy field that renders him functionally immortal. Kogoro Akechi, perhaps the most famous character of Ranpo's, is the stoic leader of the Detective Club. Hanasaki, Kobayashi, and Akechi, along with all the other guys who help to crack their cases, eventually wind up mired in the misdeeds of a mysterious master criminal known as Twenty Faces, whose complex schemes point to a deadly obsession with Hanasaki and Akechi both, while Kobayashi is just searching for a way to break his curse and finally shuffle off his mortal coil once and for all.
If this sounds like a lot for a premise, you're not alone. I initially found myself struggling with just how scattered Trickster felt in its opening episodes. The setting comes across as somewhat nebulous, and the early barrage of episodic mysteries were inconsistent in entertainment value. While I appreciated some of the show's visual flourishes and general sense of style, the scripts left me cold more often than not. As a fan of soft-futurist sci fi and detective fiction, all of the pieces were in place for me to enjoy Trickster, but they just never really fell into place.
A lot of this has to do with the characters, who I found to be generally unlikable and uninteresting. Kobayashi is the worst of the bunch by far; his powers are rarely addressed or deployed with the proper level of awe and terror that his kind of violent immortality would warrant. They're simply cause for the sap to mope around and exhibit enough edgy nihilism that I began to audibly sigh whenever he came onscreen. Akechi is nowhere near as obnoxious as Kobayashi, but that's just because he's not much of a character at all. This set covers the first half of the series, and it isn't until the final few episodes of these twelve that we even begin to understand anything about Akechi. Fans of the character from the original stories may get more out of his role, but I was left mostly bored by him. This leaves us with Akechi, the most problematic of the bunch because while his rambunctious energy can sometimes feel like a welcome reprieve from everyone else's bland dourness, it eventually begins to wear thin. His character arc is the most complete in this first half of the series, but it also goes through some twists and turns that make him difficult to root for. I wouldn't say that I actively disliked him, but Akechi still hasn't become the complex and engaging character that Trickster so desperately needs him to be.
Production wise, Trickster is also a mixed bag. There is definitely ambition behind the recurring visual motifs, the futuristic setting, and the pseudo-philosophical themes explored by the series' villain, Twenty Faces. Unfortunately, the execution is scattershot at best. For every compelling shot and arresting image, we get sequences that look flat-out ugly and uninteresting. Some aspects of the setting are interesting in their own way (such as the hacker girl Makoto and her biomechanical owl drone), but most of the series lacks a unique identity or personality. Twenty Faces occasionally has moments of menace and dangerous charm (especially in the Japanese dub, where he's played with scenery-chewing gusto by Gackt), but he's also rife with lazy anime villain clichés, especially in his long monologues meant to torment our heroes. Everything Twenty Faces does in this series has been accomplished by more complicated villains in more consistently entertaining shows.
Technically speaking, Funimation's release of Trickster's first volume is up to par with their usual quality standard. There are both DVD and Blu-ray discs included in this release, and the sole extra feature besides the usual trailers is actually a digital-copy code, which means you can add the episodes to your digital library and watch them on the go if you like. This has been a standard practice for most movies and TV shows for years now, so I'm really happy to see companies like Funimation jumping on board with their releases as well.
The dub included on these discs isn't terrible, but it's one of the first I've encountered in a while that I found noticeably inferior to the Japanese audio. Eric Vale and Justin Briner do just fine as Akechi and Hanasaki, but Austin Tindle plays up Kobayashi's sad boy antics in a way that makes an irritating character all the more off-putting. Christopher Bevins is also out of his element as Twenty Faces; his version of “hammy bad guy” just sounds corny, where Gackt was able to muster more charm and threat in his performance. There's also a late-in-the-season musical interlude that's a natural fit for Gackt (he also sings the show's theme songs), but ends up being cringe-worthy when translated into English and performed by Bevins. I don't think the script and English performances are bad enough to turn away any dub enthusiasts, but it isn't the preferable way to watch the show.
Trickster is only halfway done at this point, so there's every chance it could turn back around in its second set. There is potential here, but it often ends up overshadowed by glaring technical problems or weak writing. I don't exactly regret the time I spent with Trickster's first half, but I can hardly say I'm convinced that series will end up being worth more time. It's the definition of a Rental series, something that's worth checking out when there's nothing else waiting in your queue, provided you don't go in with high expectations.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Ingo:
"My name is Ingo (aka morshuwarrior, usually), age 23 and from the Netherlands. I've been a fan of anime since 2009 and started collecting since 2011. It all started with a little show called Naruto, recommended to me by a friend. I had little to no interest in anime before that (outside of things I used to watch as kid like Dragon Ball, Digimon, Heidi, etc). I was hooked from the very beginning and couldn't get enough, so as soon as I caught up I stepped over to One Piece, which I considered my favorite series for a few years... that is until I watched Inuyasha and later stumbled upon Rumiko Takahashi's other famous works, Ranma, Maison Ikkoku, Kyoukai no Rinne (which had only just started at that point in time) and Urusei Yatsura. All these shows would become favorites of mine and eventually Urusei Yatsura would kick One Piece from the number #1 spot and become my favorite anime ever, which it still is to this day.
So yeah, it didn't take long for my interest in anime to skyrocket and watch hundreds of shows in these past nine years. Things are difficult in my personal life now, affecting the amount of time I spent on watching anime (except for Black Clover which I actually enjoy a whole lot, but only in dub), but that won't stop me from buying more anime merchandise to show my support! I can't wait for the Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer Blu-ray!! I've been reading Shelf Life for what I believe to be about 4-5 years now. I love Shelf Obsessed because I'm always interested in other peoples' collections, what shows to they like and at times be amazed at what they accomplished to collect. I'm not much of a streamer actually, no matter how convenient and cheaper it may be, I will always prefer to have something physical to truly show which shows I want to support and, in some sense, treasure them.
My collection includes primarily Blu-rays and DVD's. Most of it are European UK releases (some Dutch and French too), but I'm no stranger to importing from the US if it's not available here, especially considering I love old school shows which pretty much get no English releases in Europe whatsoever (we unfortunately have no Discotek equivalant...). I'm not much of a figurine collector, but the few I do have, I find very pleasant to have around... and a whole lotta amiibo's.
To conclude things, as you may have guessed, anime plays a big role in my life. From the enjoyment I get from watching the shows themselves to meeting new and awesome people with similar interests. I love these people and I cannot imagine my life without them anymore! Yes, HAAMC, I'm talking about you people ;) PS: The last photo was taken just a few days afterwards as I received a package later than expected. Also, yes, I realize that a chunk of the Panty & Stocking wall-scroll is behind the TV ^^; I'm too lazy to move it.
I believe that's all! Otherwise I'll leave something I have forgotten to tell in the comment section (I'm 'thekingsdinner' if anyone's curious ^^). I could've also included my game collection, but that would take forever to take pictures of, so I'll leave it at this! Hope everybody enjoys the pictures!"
It's always great to hear from our longtime readers, not to mention folks from overseas! I love the variety of genres and decades in this collection. Thanks for sticking with us for all these years, and thanks for sharing!
Want to show off you own collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!
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