by Paul Jensen,
The good news: Cells at Work is getting a second season! The bad news: the opening theme from the first season has been stuck in my head since I heard the news, and as much as I enjoyed my brain's broken rendition of the lyrics the first three dozen times, it's starting to get old. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Tyson and his friends must face off against one another in the latest Beyblade team tournament.
Extra: We've been seeing a lot of on-disc releases for this franchise lately, and as is often the case we don't have any formal reviews for this particular series. Our user ratings for it have an average of 5.9 out of 10.
Synopsis: A team of female adventurers take on the perils of a fantasy world while sporting the latest in bikini armor fashion.
DARLING in the FRANXX - Part 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.99 Amazon|$63.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: A former prodigy mecha pilot gets a second chance at seizing his destiny when he meets a mysterious girl named Zero Two.
Synopsis: Teenage commando Sousuke Sagara returns to action when the sinister organization Amalgam targets both his comrades and his friends.
Synopsis: A group of special shrine maidens train to fight against supernatural foes and compete against one another in a fighting tournament.
Synopsis: Lovesick teenager Kyosuke must keep his family's special powers a secret while navigating a perilous love triangle.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These - Season 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: In a war between interplanetary empires, two brilliant tacticians rise to fame within their own nations while fighting against one another on the battlefield.
Synopsis: Deku and friends must foil a plot to infiltrate and sabotage a major exposition of hero technology.
Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this movie, but our user ratings for it are pretty positive with an average of 7.7 out of 10. You can stream the TV series on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
Synopsis: Sasuke and Naruto must take each other on in one last battle as the Fourth Great Ninja War approaches its conclusion.
Synopsis: After his family is murdered by ninjas, an ordinary salaryman becomes the super-powerful Ninja Slayer and sets out on a mission of vengeance.
Synopsis: As pop idol Mima branches out into an acting career, she finds herself pursued by a crazed stalker and members of her entourage start turning up dead.
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 275 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Middle school student Kobayashi and high school detective Akechi take on a series of deadly mysteries surrounding an infamous killer.
Synopsis: A rogue priest, a demon, a water sprite, and a monkey king set out on a journey to save the world from certain destruction at the hands of a resurrected monster.
Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 - Part 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.99 Amazon|$63.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Three years after their first mission, the crew of the Yamato return to take on the dangerous task of saving humanity from a new and mysterious threat.
Extra: As far as I can tell, we don't yet have any reviews for this portion of the franchise, but its history is covered in The Mike Toole Show.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online - Part 1 BD
Aniplex - 164 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Awkward college student Karen escapes into the world of an online shooting game, where an encounter with a fellow gamer leads her to enter the prestigious Squad Jam tournament.
Yamibo: Darkness, the Hat, and the Travelers of the Books - Complete Collection BD
Media Blasters - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $29.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: When her adopted sister vanishes, high school student Hazuki must travel to a mysterious realm known as the Great Library in order to find her.
Extra: We have a review of a previous DVD release of this series.
Shelf Life Reviews
Action and drama are great, but sometimes you just need a warm and fuzzy slice of life show to help you relax. Mitsuboshi Colors offers exactly that, but does it succeed? Here's my review of the series.
The series follows the adventures of the “Colors,” a trio of elementary school kids. Yui, Kotoha, and Sacchan (or Sat-chan, depending on which subtitle track or credit listing you look at) have teamed up with the goal of protecting the peace of their hometown. In practice, this usually means exploring the shopping district, taking on “cases” assigned to them by the townsfolk, and finding new ways to annoy Saito, the neighborhood police officer. This twelve-episode season covers a year's worth of the trio's activities, including searching for a panda-colored cat in the spring and instigating a zombie mob on Halloween.
One of the biggest challenges these kinds of shows face is finding the right balance between comedic energy and laid-back slice of life pacing. Mitsuboshi Colors struggles with this a bit in its early episodes, where it falls into the common trap of leaning too hard into the characters' key personality traits. Sacchan occasionally goes too far over the top as the designated troublemaker, while Kotoha overplays the “quirky gamer” routine and Yui is left with little to do beyond reacting to the other girls' antics. The show is still perfectly watchable in these early scenes, but it definitely feels like it's trying to do too much at once in terms of establishing those central character dynamics, and that can make it difficult to really get immersed in the episodic storylines.
Thankfully, the writing and direction find their footing soon enough, and by the fourth episode the series is able to settle into a comfortable rhythm. There's a good balance between natural character-based humor and self-referential jokes, where the girls can riff on one another's roles in the group without knocking too hard on the fourth wall. The central trio is backed up by a reliable supporting cast, with Saito making a good “adversary” while some of the local shopkeepers help to instigate or enable the group's adventures. The pacing and story structure are also handled well, with storylines rarely feeling too short or too long. The seasonal progression from spring through winter helps add some variety to the setting, so it doesn't feel like we're just going through the same handful of locations over and over. The overall vibe reminds me a bit of Non Non Biyori, albeit with a city setting in place of that show's rural countryside.
In terms of the genre fundamentals, then, Mitsuboshi Colors has most of its bases covered. It's entertaining to watch, and it does a nice job of tapping into the nostalgic value of being a kid and exploring the neighborhood with your friends. What it doesn't do, however, is take that next step beyond providing an amusing and relaxing experience. The biggest thing that separates great slice of life shows from merely good ones is their ability to convey insights about life and provide moments of emotional poignance, and I didn't get either of those things out of this series. It's just a little too light on ambition, and never ventures far from the basic genre playbook in its writing or direction. While that low-risk approach helps maintain a consistent level of quality, it also means I can't point to any particular scene that was genuinely memorable.
For the most part, the art and animation are both above average here. The character designs do a nice job of using the three girls' key colors (red for Yui, blue for Kotoha, yellow for Sacchan) without being too blatant about it, and facial expressions and body movements are conveyed fairly well. My only gripe with the visuals is that the backgrounds occasionally look like someone dropped a watercolor filter over a reference photo instead of actually drawing a location from scratch. This Blu-Ray set from Sentai Filmworks includes an English dub, and while it suffers a bit more from the “adult actors playing children” effect than the original Japanese track, the writing is solid and all of the key performances are on point. Extras are limited to the basic clean opening and closing sequences and trailers.
If you enjoy the “cute characters do cute things” approach to the slice of life genre, Mitsuboshi Colors should be right up your alley. It's entertaining and relaxing in equal measure, and I can confirm that it makes for a strong antidote to a stressful week. On the other hand, you won't find much substance beyond the surface-level theme of kids being kids, so I doubt it'll win over anyone who doesn't already enjoy this kind of series. Given a choice between watching it again and trying out one of its many genre stablemates, I'd probably leave this set on the shelf and go for something new.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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