by Paul Jensen,
You know what's pretty? Snow. You know what sucks? Six inches of snow on my car, plus a full coating of ice for good measure. Seriously, why do I need to go outside again? Welcome to Shelf Life.
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On Shelves This Week
Bungo Stray Dogs - Season 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$61.49 Amazon
Synopsis: Atsushi Nakajima becomes the newest member of the Armed Detective Agency, a team of literary legends with superhuman powers.
Extra: We have episode reviews for both seasons of this show, along with a feature article on the real-life models for some of the characters. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
Synopsis: When a powerful staff called the Dragon Cry falls into the hands of a tyrannical ruler, Natsu and friends are called in to retrieve it.
Synopsis: Long before the creation of the Fairy Tail guild, young Mavis Vermillion fights to survive after the guild she serves is destroyed.
Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this prequel series, but our user ratings look pretty encouraging with an average of 8.0 out of 10. See the previous entry on this list for streaming links.
Synopsis: Voice actress Chitose Karasuma thinks she's finally gotten her big break, but the show she's been cast in turns out to be total disaster.
Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu. I enjoyed this one; it's a refreshingly snarky alternative to all the idealistic "anime about anime" shows out there.
Synopsis: Teenage fujoshi Kae Serinuma suddenly finds herself surrounded by handsome guys who want to date her, but she'd much rather see them pair up with one another.
Mobile Suit Gundam UC - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 450 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.99|$49.99
Currently cheapest at: $37.19 Amazon|$32.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: The powerful Vist Foundation gives an artifact known as Laplace's Box to the remaining forces of Neo Zeon, plunging the solar system into a new conflict.
Extra: We have a review from a previous release of this OVA series, and it was also covered in depth in an installment of The Mike Toole Show a couple years ago. The re-edited TV series is available on Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: The members of the Boy's Detectives Club continue their struggle agains the mysterious villain Twenty Faces.
Shelf Life Reviews
I'm back in the review hot seat this week with a nifty little short film. Here's my take on Typhoon Noruda.
As you may have guessed, this film takes place during a typhoon. A group of middle school students are in the middle of preparing for their annual culture festival, and they end up trapped at school because of the storm. The timing couldn't be worse for best friends Azuma and Saijo, who are in the middle of a bitter feud over Azuma's decision to quit their baseball team. The two boys don't want anything to do with one another, but they're forced to work together when Azuma discovers a mysterious girl named Noruda on school grounds. Noruda turns out to be a visitor from another world, and the secret she carries could spell disaster for Earth.
When you only have about half an hour to tell a story, it's important to keep things simple. Typhoon Noruda does this reasonably well, sticking with the tried and true “ordinary boy meets extraordinary girl” formula. The basic plot points are familiar enough that the film doesn't need to get bogged down in lore or superfluous details; bad things will happen if Azuma doesn't help Noruda, and that's about all we need to know. The themes of the story are also on the simple and universal side, making them easily relatable. There's a reasonably compelling coming-of-age story packed in here as Azuma fights with his childhood friend, asserts his independence, and then reconciles with Saijo in time to save the day. It's a story that most viewers will have heard before, but that familiarity is part of the reason it works well within a short running time.
The downside to keeping Typhoon Noruda short and sweet is that the pacing is inevitably rushed. There's almost no downtime here, and the story moves from one beat to the next before any one moment has a chance to sink in. This makes it hard to engage with the film on any level beyond “This is holding my attention.” If you've ever seen an anime adaptation of a manga series that tries to cram too much source material into too few episodes, this experience is pretty similar. It feels like there's more that could've been said about each of the major plotlines: the feud between Azuma and Saijo, Noruda's sinister mission, and the not-quite-romance that blossoms between Noruda and Azuma. Given twenty more minutes to fill in the details, this could've been a genuinely memorable film instead of just an entertaining one.
That time crunch also has smaller significant side effects. The dialogue is in desperate need of subtlety, and characters are constantly forced to say exactly what they mean in order to keep the story moving. It's a lot of exposition with very little conversation, which makes it hard to sell the idea that the characters are real people rather than fictional constructs. The characters' personalities also end up being defined by their situations: Saijo is the angry guy because of his fight with Azuma, Azuma is the nice guy because he finds Noruda and decides to help her, and Noruda is the inscrutable alien girl who doesn't have much personality until after the big conflict is resolved. It feels like any depth or complexity these kids had ended up on the cutting room floor.
The good news is that while the plot may be a no-frills affair, the visuals in Typhoon Noruda are downright lavish. Character movements are smooth and natural, backgrounds are packed with detail, and there are some incredibly ambitious moving camera shots that look like they were pulled from a major animated film. Aside from some merely average CG work on Noruda's spaceship, this is a damn fine-looking piece of animation. This Blu-Ray release from Sentai Filmworks also includes an extra short film, which is similarly eye-catching in its design and production. There's a decent English dub on disc as well, though it suffers from the same over-simplified dialogue as the original Japanese script.
Typhoon Noruda is good enough to keep you engaged in the moment, and it's easily worth half an hour of your time to watch through once. Beyond that, it works more as an introduction to its director than as a standalone piece of entertainment. It's just too short to make the most of its story potential. I'm intrigued to see if Yojiro Arai gets a chance to direct something with a more substantial running time, since this directorial debut is an impressive first step.
That wraps up the column for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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