by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I saw Mirai last week, and it's an interesting film, particularly if you've seen any of Mamoru Hosoda's other movies. It's one of those stories that manages to be about children without being exclusively for children. If it's playing in your area, you might want to check it out. After all, who doesn't like seeing anime in a movie theater? Welcome to Shelf Life.
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On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: After leaving his village for the Capital city, aspiring warrior Tatsumi joins a renegade group of assassins known as Night Raid in their battle against the authorities.
Extra: This series was previously released in two sets, and we have reviews of those here and here. We also have a full set of episode reviews, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu.
Synopsis: Abh Empire officer Lafiel and her companion Jinto find themselves on the front lines of a war between the Empire and the Triple Alliance.
Synopsis: When the vampire Dracula unleashes destruction on the surrounding countryside, it's up to a trio of unlikely heroes to defeat him.
Synopsis: After years of training in martial arts together, college students Haruki and Kazuma leave the sport to start a cheerleading group.
Synopsis: After his home planet falls under the control of the powerful Abh Empire, young nobleman Jinto Lin is sent to be trained by the Empire's military.
Extra: While we have a couple of old reviews for its sequel, we don't seem to have much for this series. It's pretty well-regarded, though, with an average user rating of 8 out of 10. The first two episodes are available on Funimation.
Synopsis: When Yuko Okonogi's family moves to the technologically advanced Daikoku City, she and her new friends get immersed in the city's augmented reality system.
Synopsis: With the survival of both the Real and the Digital Worlds hanging in the balance, the DigiDestined take on their greatest challenge.
Extra: No formal reviews for this sixth and final film in the series (our most recent review covers the fourth part). The episodic versions of each film are available onCrunchyroll.
Synopsis: Strong-willed teenager Benio Hanamura pushes the cultural boundaries of Taisho-era Japan, but her ideals are tested when she finds out she's engaged to a young military officer.
Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $24.98
Currently cheapest at: $17.74 Amazon
Synopsis: Young priestess Machi wants to leave her rural home and move to the big city, but her talking bear companion Natsu worries that she's not ready for the culture shock.
Mobile Fighter G Gundam - Part 1 BD, DVD, Ultra Edition
Right Stuf - 600 min|1225 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $74.99|$59.99|$239.99
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$38.99 Right Stuf|$143.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Gundam pilot Domon Kasshu joins an international mobile suit fighting tournament in the hopes of learning the truth behind a sinister conspiracy.
Extra: We have surprisingly little formal coverage of this series, though we do have plenty of user ratings which average out to around 6.7 out of 10. You can stream it on Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: With the appearance of Kaguya Otsutsuki, the truth behind many important events is finally revealed.
Extra: We're getting close to the end of the series with these sets, and our episode reviews cover the entirety of this particular release. The series is available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.
Synopsis: High school boy Natsuki and his three friends try to navigate the ups and downs of teenage love and heartbreak.
Synopsis: When Suigin's friend Rei becomes trapped in a virtual world, he must dive into it to rescue her.
Extra: Both of this show's seasons were covered in the Preview Guide (you'll find those entries here and here), but neither one made the cut for episode reviews. both seasons are available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Shelf Life Reviews
James is on review duty this week with a look at the intense teen drama series Scum's Wish.
For the uninitiated, Scum's Wish is the kind of coming-of-age story that takes nearly every anxiety-inducing sexual disaster that your average teen could possibly imagine and then proceeds to pick these cringe-inducing memories apart over the course of twelve episodes. Hanabi is a high-school student who's infatuated with Narumi, an older family friend that just so happens to also be her teacher. Narumi has his own complicated relationship with the school's new music teacher, Akane, who's secretly dealing with just as many psychosexual hang-ups as her students, including Mugi, a boy who's both in love with Akane and recovering from an unhealthy sexual relationship he began with an older student in middle school. Mugi and Hanabi decide to begin hooking up with each other to vent their respective sexual frustrations, and if all of this seems like an absurd entanglement of romantic polyhedrons, Hanabi also finds herself engaging in a tryst with her best friend, Sanae. Hanabi is not herself sexually interested in women, but she allows her infatuated gay best friend to have sex with her out of a sense of guilt.
To say that the characters of Scum's Wish could stand to make better personal choices is a wild understatement, and I wouldn't blame any newcomers if they started running for the hills at that plot synopsis. The way that Hanabi and company go about conflating lust, love, identity, and self-worth is so painfully accurate to teenage life that watching just one episode of Scum's Wish can feel exhausting; sitting through eleven more might very well be more than many viewers can bear. I got my enthusiastic recommendation out of the way up front, because just describing the plot of Scum's Wish doesn't do the series many favors.
The genius of Scum's Wish lies in its execution. I urge anyone who still finds themselves on the fence to at least give the show a chance, because it takes a premise that could have easily become a trashy exercise in sexploitation and turns it into introspective art. Director Masaomi Ando and the team at Studio Lerche really brought their “A” game to this adaptation of Mengo Yokoyari's manga, faithfully translating the comic's eye-catching artwork and filtering it through a dreamy and impressionistic lens. Manga-paneling and theatrical flourishes allow scenes to dip in and out of dialogue, flashbacks, and present-day action without losing the audience. Abstract ink-stain smears and watercolor splotches are paired with interludes that depict snippets of each character's inner thoughts. Yui Koichi's lovely score provides the perfect accompaniment to the series' many pensive monologues.
I would say that Ando's direction evokes some kind of strange hybrid between Isao Takahata and Kunihiko Ikuhara, though Scum's Wish disposes of much allegorical pretense when it comes to its characters' inner lives. These characters are having sex most of the time, and they're usually crying most of the time as well, because all of the make-out sessions and hand-jobs are just unhealthy substitutes for the interpersonal relationships that each character is afraid of developing for their own reasons. The French have referred to the sensation of orgasm as la petite mort, “the little death”, but for the kids of Scum's Wish, every shame-filled sexual altercation might as well be a personal apocalypse. This is both the show's chief artistic strength and the main area that might end up disappointing those willing to wade through the series' torrent of melodrama. Hanabi, Mugi, Sanae, and the others are all deeply flawed characters, and whether you find them sympathetic will largely depend on how long you can tolerate watching them make awful decisions before they figure out how to make better ones.
Sentai's blu-ray is a solid A/V transfer that doesn't contain any extras outside of the usual trailers and such, but I do want to take some time to talk about the new English dub, which is wonderful. This is a faithfully translated production bolstered by a stellar cast; Avery Smithhart and Greg Cote deliver appropriately subdued and naturalistic performances that manage to ably capture the pair's awkward chemistry and damaged rapport, and little touches throughout the dub only reinforce the strengths of their performance, such as in an episode that ends with the two wallowing in sad karaoke, where Smithhart and Cote commit to singing the untranslated Japanese, lending the whole affair a sad sort of goofiness that fits emotionally. Molly Searcy and Maggie Flecknoe are equally excellent as Sanae and Akane respectively, and Brittney Karbowski's turn as Mugi's childhood friend Noriko is one of those rare dub performances that feels like an improvement over the original Japanese. I think the English dub as a whole is such a fine product that it makes investing in the blu-ray worth it on its own.
So despite the lack of extras, Scum's Wish more than earns a Shelf Worthy rating by virtue of being a drop-dead gorgeous masterpiece of teen melodrama, with a strong English dub to boot. Those of you with an aversion to watching interpersonal drama blow up in characters' faces will likely not get as much out of Scum's Wish, but I personally can't recommend this series enough. It's one of the most honest and vulnerable portrayals of angst, sex, and emotional maturation that I've seen, a bittersweet time capsule that reminds you of the scars that both pain and pleasure leave behind, and the twisted roads that so many young people carve out for themselves as they journey into the uncharted territories of their own lives.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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