by Paul Jensen,
Something about living in the Northeastern US has a tendency to warp one's mind in very particular ways. As I was digging my car out of half a foot of snow last week, I caught myself thinking, "The weather's not too bad today." You know, just a perfectly normal thought that rational people have all the time, right? Right? Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Mild-mannered high school student Maika Sakuranomiya gets a job at a cafe where all of the waitstaff adopt over-the-top personas, and she's assigned the part of a vicious sadist.
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Leonardo Watch and the other members of Leonardo Watch continue their struggle to keep peace in the turbulent city of Hellsalem's Lot.
Synopsis: Two factions of Masters and Servants wage an all-out war for control of a powerful artifact known as the Greater Grail.
Fate/Stay Night: Heaven's Feel I. Presage Flower BD, Limited Edition
Aniplex - 120 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.98|$79.98
Currently cheapest at: $39.98 Right Stuf|$69.98 Right Stuf
Synopsis: As Shirou Emiya is drawn into a winner-take-all Holy Grail War, his underclassman Sakura Matou struggles with her feelings towards him.
Synopsis: When a date with his beautiful classmate Nazuna goes awry, Norimichi gets a chance to try again after accidentally turning back time.
Extra: We have a review of this movie. I watched it during its short US theatrical run, and while it had some neat visuals near the end, I mostly remember being impressed by the clever marketing decision to release it around July 4th.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Parts 1 and 2 BD
Aniplex - 720 min|810 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $124.98 each
Currently cheapest at: $99.98 Right Stuf|$99.98 Right Stuf
Synopsis: After an attempted resurrection goes horribly wrong, alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric seek out the Philosopher's Stone in order to return their bodies to normal.
Synopsis: As danger swirls in Russel City, a man named Sword and a girl named Sophie get caught up in a conspiracy surrounding the mysterious "El Dorado."
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Take On Me BD+DVD
Sentai - 94 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $24.99 Amazon
Synopsis: When Rikka's sister Toka tries to make her move to Italy, Rikka and Yuta decide that their only hope of staying together is to elope on a trip across Japan.
Synopsis: After Abeno Haruitsuki helps Ashiya Hanae deal with a troublesome yokai possession, Ashiya begins working as Abeno's assistant in order to repay the debt.
Myriad Colors Phantom World - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 350 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: As otherworldly phantoms threaten the peace of the human world, super-powered teenagers Haruhiko and Mai struggle to work their way up the phantom-busting ranks at school.
Synopsis: Luluco is forced to join the Space Patrol after her father is frozen in a block of ice, but at least she's paired up with a handsome patrolman named Nova.
Shelf Life Reviews
I covered the simulcast of the first season of Terraformars back in 2014, but I thought I'd seen the last of this series when its sequel didn't make the cut for streaming reviews. But, like a good sci-fi movie monster, Terraformars Revenge showed up when I least expected it. Here's my review of the new Blu-Ray set from Viz Media.
If you're new to the franchise, here's a basic rundown. A botched attempt at terraforming Mars has left the planet mostly habitable but overrun with mutated, humanoid cockroaches. Humanity needs to gather biological samples from the bug-men in order to cure a deadly epidemic on Earth, but things haven't exactly gone as planned. The spaceship Annex 1 crashed on arrival, leaving its crew scattered and besieged by swarms of Terraformar soldiers. The good news is that everyone on the Annex crew has been genetically enhanced with special abilities derived from a variety of deadly animals. The bad news is that there are traitors in their midst, and they've been cut off from any hope of a timely rescue. As you might expect, plenty of desperate battle scenes ensue.
Towards the end of its first season, Terraformars found a comfortable narrative groove, and that framework carries over into Revenge with a respectable amount of success. Most fights last between one and two episodes, and each showdown focuses on a couple of characters, providing some emotional context for their struggle through extensive flashbacks. The writing isn't exactly a shining beacon of subtlety or nuance, nor does it need to be. Terraformars Revenge is all about raw emotions, brutal action, and bombastic monologues about never giving up. As long as you're on board with that no-frills approach to genre storytelling, it makes for good popcorn entertainment and Revenge has further refined the formula laid down by the first season.
The downside of this approach is that it eventually grows repetitive. While the early episodes are an enjoyable ride, Revenge starts to lose steam near the middle of its run. Once you realize that the series is repeating the same steps with small variations, it gets shockingly easy to predict how each character arc will play out. Somebody gets backed into a corner by either a particularly tough Terraformar or by one of the traitors within the Annex crew, we learn why that person risked his or her life to come to mars, and then that character either stages a comeback victory or makes a heroic sacrifice. Rinse and repeat, adding a little bit of progress in the overall narrative each time. There's a cursory attempt at adding some variety by cutting to scenes of international intrigue back on Earth, but this portion of the story is arguably the least interesting part of Terraformars Revenge. While it's not necessarily bad, it's not compelling or unpredictable enough to be worth the screen time it requires. When you sign up for a series to watch people punch space bugs, watching people argue at the space UN feels like a bit of a downgrade.
Thankfully, the last few episodes send the season out with a bang. The final story arc doesn't necessarily do anything new, but it cranks the intensity up even higher than usual, and that simple “more is more” approach works well with the show's overall tone. More lives hang in the balance, the potential consequences of failure are more dire, and one Terraformar in particular is more of an indestructible monster than any of its predecessors. Victory and defeat seem equally possible, ratcheting up the emotional tension by an extra notch or two. This high point is unfortunately followed by an inconclusive ending which implies that we're nowhere near the end of the story, but this is somewhat inevitable for an adaptation of an ongoing original work.
Returning fans will be happy to know that the visuals in Terraformars Revenge are significantly improved from the first season. The lack of obnoxious black circles covering up any hint of gore is an obvious step up from the original broadcast, but the animation in general is also better. It's still not a fantastic looking show, but Revenge does at least avoid the poorly lit night scenes and cheap still frames that sometimes plagued its predecessor. This set gave me a chance to finally check out the English dub for Terraformars, and the writing and performances do a nice job of translating the intensity of the dialogue. On-disc extras for this set include an art gallery and some video interviews with members of the dub cast.
Terraformars in general is what I'd call a “big dumb fun” series, the kind of thing that's best watched with a rowdy group of friends who yell and scream every time a character gets punched or dismembered. This sequel season equals the first in terms of being big and dumb, and it takes a modest step forward in the fun department. The manga arguably remains the best way to experience the story, but there's something to be said for the meaty sound effects that accompany every punch and kick in the anime. As simple, surface-level entertainment, it's crude but effective.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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