#115 : Project A-Ko

PAK_1Who needs Prozac when instead you can have Project A-Ko instead. You will have zero side effects, except having a big smile on your face and laughing most of the time. Now that’s a prescription we can all agree on. An 80s otaku’s wet dream of self referential parody fit into a sci-fi school comedy that has a plot so big and out of left field that it could only be… well, brilliant. A staple for any collection, the one, the only, the Project A-Ko.

PAK_2If ever an anime encapsulates the decade of the 1980s (well at least up to 1986 at least), it was Project A-Ko. Rising from the ashes of a failed pornographic project (odd start, eh?), Project A-Ko would turn into a self referential love fest for 80s otaku culture. And in case you miss the references to classics such as Macross, Captain Harlock, Fist of the North Star and Creamy Mami just to name a few, you are still in good hands. A joke is a joke and humor knows no boundary, but if you get the reference, you laugh twice as hard 🙂 Also of note is that we have another level of parody. Wait… more? OH YES! Heard of Jackie Chan? He had a movie out at this time known as Project A and this as well crept it’s way into the film in no minor way by of the title itself.

PAK_3The plot of Project A-Ko encapsulates around a triangular relationship. Super-heroic (literally) A-Ko/Eiko is the best friend of perhaps the queen of all crybabies, C-Ko/Shiiko. They laugh, walk to school and go shopping together. Plus, they are in the same class; talk about being tied to the hip! This does not bode well with another fellow classmate, the snobby rich girl B-Ko/Biko. She wants C-Ko for her own and jealousy exudes on to how she can foil the impressive A-Ko with various nefarious plots including using her posse, building mechs and finally making a powered suit that leaves little to the imagination. This suit and the final fight she starts with A-Ko to claim her supremacy becomes the center point of climactic action and in my opinion the cornerstone of this film. Beyond a normal high school cat fight, this altercation between A-Ko and B-Ko is more like a beautiful dance than an all out brawl.

PAK_4And if that wasn’t enough for a plot, let’s also add in some humanoid aliens who are in search of their long lost princess… C-Ko. Bizarre beyond definition is why everyone, and I mean everyone has something for C-Ko? She is one annoying character don’t you think? To each there own I suppose. Loud, immature and lacking in cooking skills (scary bento lunches) and as I said before the chronic crybaby. I am not here to judge, but I must call into question the rationality for begrudged rich girls and alcohol infused alien ship captains. Then again, rationality and this film are distant cousins six times removed.

Outside the plot, there is another memorable piece that is special to Project A-Ko, namely the soundtrack. Not because it fits the movie so well and encapsulates the era, but because it represents rarity back in ye olden days of anime. The soundtrack was outsourced to a couple young musicians, Joey Carbone and Richie Zito, in the Los Angeles area. This Japanese product used American music sensibilities to spice it up it’s presentation. The East met and collaborated with the West on a project decades before it became commonplace to our zeitgeist. Besides the instrumental tracks written and performed by the boys, there were three stand out songs sung by three different ladies. One of whom was none other than Samantha Newark, better known as Jem of Jem and the Holograms. Samantha of course was the speaking voice of Jem, but this movie showcased the fact that her voice acting wasn’t her only talent. She is a diva of a singer as well.

Project A-Ko is simply too much fun. An entertaining movie that never takes itself too seriously. The exception though would be in the drawing department. Project A-Ko is an animation playhouse created by individuals who expressed their joys and talents into a project that may just be the best goofy action movie ever made.

#99 : The Guyver: Out of Control

GOoC_1Do you know The Guyver? Sure you may be aware of the epic 12-episode OVA that was released from 1989, or that more recent version of 2005, or the manga, or even those very interesting (often characterized as bad) live acton B-movies. But there is another Guyver, a simpler Guyver, a one and done OVA kind of Guyver. It dates from 1986 and it is so rad and tubular (sorry I am going back to my 80s slang days), so ‘out of control’ (it’s in the name of the title after all) and kind of forgotten as well that I wonder if this is a legitimate entry for all that is The Guyver? Of course it is! This may be a dust gathering artifact from the golden age of the genesis of 80s OVAs, but it still counts! This was and is and always shall be The Guyver: Out of Control.

GOoC_2To date, this is the only Guyver that I have seen. I want to change this, not that I was impressed beyond belief with Guyver, but I feel it is worthy to see a more flushed out version of this story. The Guyver: Out of Control is just under an hour and it works very well as a one stop shop for an all out action extravaganza. Similar to Baoh, except our hero was not a test subject run amuck. Sho Fukamachi, our hero, after seeing an explosion from a battle in the distance comes into contact with an odd circular metallic object that he has to pick up and hold. After all being an average high school student, this is different and kind of cool… you got to pick it up… and then you pay the price.

This disc like object ends up turning Sho into one of the most streamlined, and perhaps very dangerous looking, superhero/fighter by having all these coils wrap around him. Ewww… just like tentacles, what the…? This is not weird fetish porn! This is proper action anime here! … At least Sho was not stripped of his clothes. Oh and look, now those guys from the previous battle from afar become the focus of Sho and steal his girlfriend. Bad idea! Now Sho has to fight up against the so called Chronos Corporation and yet another Guyver unit, who started out life as a beautiful redhead and in the process rescue his beloved lady. It’s so cheesy, but you got to love it anyway.

GOoC_3The irony of The Guyver: Out of Control is due to the fact that ‘don’t let the cover determine how you read the book.’ Case in point, the character designs of Toyoo Ashida with their large round eyes (isn’t that what everyone says about anime anyway?) don’t really show just how… violent… this OVA is. But then again, Ashida directed the Fist of the North Star and Vampire Hunter D movies (Hiroshi Watanabe directed this one), so perhaps these designs were a good choice? But seeing the promo materials makes me think initially of Minky Momo or Vifam (both in Ashida’s portfolio) and that this will be kind of a cute production. No Luck Chuck! This is like Fist of the North Star, Vampire Hunter D, or even… M.D. Geist (Eee!) type of violence. Wait a minute… I just mentioned Fist of the North Star and Vampire Hunter D twice (actually three!) … ok, then these character designs are fitting. Maybe? I like them anyway! Next paragraph…

GOoC_4Do you remember a time when anime was promoted as violent, mature and all that jazz? Yeah, those VHS days of the 90s only pigeonholed anime as a singular focused medium, kind of like Seattle music and Grunge. Of course we know much better now as to the variety of what there is in anime. And thank goodness, except The Guyver: Out of Control is actually a decent story, has a plot and some moral sense. It’s not mindless action and violence without a purpose.

… by the way, and this is a quote from the story, Guyver means out of control. … so then this title is simply doubling itself? Maybe it should have been called Guyver-squared?

#86 : Baoh

baoh_1A question to all you loyal fans of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure… who’s your daddy? Or perhaps, who is your older brother may be more precise? 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell (who here remembers East Germany?), Dragon Ball decided to add the Z and Saint Seiya would call it a day on the small screen, a lone wolf, short, direct to video release of a Hirohiko Araki manga would hit the shelves of video stores. Behold all that is Baoh.

baoh_2Now here is how to tell a story… A teenage boy caught up in an accident is taken in by a secret group and has a worm implanted into him to make him into the ultimate fighting, or perhaps, killing machine. Wait a minute a worm? Eww… that is gross man, but hey I didn’t create this story. And while he is being transported in statis he becomes awakened with the help of a psychic girl (Thanks for waking me up kid, that was one hell of a dream). Both escape for the hills so to speak and this so-called group does everything and anything in their power to get their prized experiment back. And hopefully before our hero, Ikuro Hashizawa, evolves towards his full potential. Hmm, kind of cliche…I smell elements of Black Magic M-66, or even maybe M.D. Geist (maybe?), but who said those are original ideas either. And if Baoh is cliche, then it does cliche oh so much better.

baoh_3Now this may be the shortest anime based off a Shonen Jump manga? Don’t quote me on this, but in a sea of triple digit episode TV adaptations a single release OVA, that does not even span an hour, is quite the welcome rarity. There is no room for filler here kids, in fact there is hardly any room to give any back story or character development. And yet we do get some… amazing. We start this story in media res and don’t stop till you cry out… NO, I want more. And then you play it again and perhaps again after that as well. Just don’t forget to put the TV on mute and crank up your old Van Halen albums (David Lee Roth era) just in case you run out of ideas of how to make Baoh even more fun! I personally recommend Atomic Punk from the first VH album. “I am a victim of the science age, a child of the storm, whoa yes!”

baoh_4I recently commented on how Blue Sonnet was a fun ride from start to finish and that was accomplished in a very short period of time, just five episodes… count ’em. Baoh is the equivalent of two of those… yeah… TWO! And for that short space, it does one thing so well… and that is… be awesome. I usually write more for these entries, but I don’t want to spoil Baoh in case you have not seen it yet. Seriously, describing the whole plot is pointless as you must see it to believe it. Baoh, you were and are a fine definition of action entertainment from the closing of that fine decade of the past; 1980s forever. Cigarette lighters take to the air and salute.

afterthought … maybe now is the time to finally give JoJo’s a try.

#84 : Blue Sonnet

BS_1Say shojo and often words like romance and magical girls become the defacto answer. Of course this is only stereotyping and not the complete truth. As an example, CLAMP creates shojo material and it is anything but light fun and flowers. More like some of the best dark and psychological material ever made. But, what if a shojo title was more like say Fist of the North Star in it’s level of action and even at times… gore. Hang on a minute… got to thumb through these old LaserDiscs here… AH HA found it! Let’s rap about a little OVA from 1989 called Blue Sonnet.

BS_2For an OVA that is five episodes in length, Blue Sonnet hits you fast and hard from the beginning with intense fervor as we dive into the opening credits. That theme song, “What is love?”… such a favorite of mine. Interspersed between the rockin’ guitars and gritty vocals we see the back story of our anti-hero Sonnet Barge. She is a teenage esper who seems to have come from the rough streets of New York and awakens her latent powers during uncomfortable circumstances, which brings more confusion into her life. After the credits we fast forward to find Sonnet showing her skills in a training example, against tanks no less (damn girl!), which highlights the cyborg enhancements she has received from a group known as Talon. She also has this weird tiara like headpiece that becomes a funky visor… stylish! From here she becomes focused on her new mission, to find Red Fang… and go to a Japanese high school as well.

BS_3Now onto our other main character and perhaps the true hero of this anime… wait… Blue Sonnet is not all about Sonnet? The original manga title was Red Fang Blue Sonnet, so either the producers or the English translation dropped out Red Fang. In a way this works out because Lan Komatsuzaki doesn’t have a clue she is Red Fang, a super esper from an ancient lineage. She is just an average high school student… yeah we have all heard that one before. Come on Lan, you can move objects and mentally sense things at a higher level than most of us. All kidding aside, her eventual meeting with Sonnet becomes fated, confusing and dangerous. Lan’s questioning of why the new girl in class has it out to get her mixed with emerging powers will turn her life upside down. Plus, she is beginning her menstrual cycle as well. When it rains, it pours.

Over the course of these five half hours, more characters become involved (including two more super powered espers!), the story gets darker and the action explodes. Almost like a video game with five levels, will you be ready for the final boss at level five? Just watch out for that tank thats called a Tarantula. Or, perhaps on another view, like an organism Blue Sonnet just keeps multiplying out of the shear reason of existence. The plot is fairly run of the mill 80s sci-fi and action, but it does it so well that it doesn’t matter. Much like punk rock, this OVA is a more simplified approach in art style and attitude, but loud and big in presence.

BS_4Let’s return to our girl Sonnet. She is after all a tool for the Talon organization and eventually she comes to question what is right and just for herself. She questions what is her true enemy and is it right that she should commit these violent acts in the name of a group that brought her out from her troubled past. Will she ever learn, as the opening credits say, What is love? And maybe more appropriate, what is my own truth for me? By the end we get a little glimpse of a vulnerability from Sonnet, but because this is a short OVA, its glanced over very quickly. Could we get an episode six to finish this off instead of all of this being up in the air? I mean there are romantic tendencies here, but I leave that to you to view as to with whom.

So on a final note… Blue Sonnet you kick ass oh so well. Now I need to re-listen/watch those opening credits yet again just because 🙂

#82 : Cutie Honey

CH_1We need a hero… right here and right NOW! Not just any hero, but a warrior of love. Ai no Senshi! And we need a lady to do this job, because guys I am sorry, you and I have had enough of being the champion. It is time for the ladies to shine, transform and kick butt. And, NO!… Sailor Moon you need to sit down my dear because you have to meet your awesome auntie who did it all first. Sometimes she is a news reporter, sometimes a fashion model, or sometimes a motorcycle racer, but to me, she is just awesome. She is after all, the one, the only… Cutie Honey. Or perhaps it’s Honey Kisaragi? Cue that famous tagline… Honey Flash!

CH_2Now I will be the first to admit that I love 60s camp. Even though Cutie Honey was a product of 1973, it retains all the over the top theatrics of say Barbarella, Modesty Blaise and maybe I am stretching it Valley of the Dolls (Neely O’ Hara!… OK, I am stretching a little). But the bright colors, the over the top acting, the parody (either intended or not) and all that big hair and fashion is simply fun. Now add all that into a magical girl show, but instead of an ordinary human lady, let’s make our pretty girl an android. And this story also needs a shonen fighter sensibility as well just because. That should be all the ingredients we need, now lets make this show rock!

CH_3Go Nagai, you sir have a twisted mind, and yet brilliant as well. From the guy who sprang forth titles ranging from Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Devilman and even the lewd Violence Jack would come Cutie Honey. And it shows, in particular with the bad ladies of the criminal organization Honey fights each episode, the nefarious Panther Claw. These villainesses of the week come in all shapes, sizes and with the wildest choices of costuming to boot. I have never seen the female form look as beautiful and/or grotesque at the same time. And then you have the leaders of Panther Claw, Panther Zora and Sister Jill. Sister Jill, with her dominatrix costume and well endowed figure, I am sure made many young boys lust over the bad girl instead of our heroic Honey. But then again, Honey has a fan club a mile long…

CH_4Such as those Hayami boys. Honey’s boyfriend Seiji, his father Danbei and his younger brother Junpei all show their devotion and attraction to ‘Miss It Girl’ Honey usually by comedic means. More than just comic relief, when Honey is in a jam, or needs a second hand, she can rely on the skills of the Hayami clan. And then there is Miss Alphonse… could be a lesbian, could just be enamored by Honey’s beauty, or could it just be that mustache? Honey has yet another reason to skip class besides being a little rebellious. Oh how it is to be so popular. Of course her looks are not what makes her attractive to Panther Claw. That necklace she wears around her neck is their prey. With it she can transform to all her alter egos, besides that it is one hell of a McGuffin device.

And now for something completely different… let’s talk music. In particular the themes, both the opener and the closer. These are perfect gems that have been resurrected in every reincarnation of our hero Honey. But the original versions… timeless. The opening is funky, funny and catchy beyond belief with the punchy bass, fuzzy guitar and string and horn sections scream the pop music of the day. I say, it’s time to dance and shake it. Now the closer on the other hand is a soft ballad that could have been a product of say Burt Bacharach production and arrangement. It still stands for me as one of the best songs I have ever heard in anime. It’s kind of romantic, like a great dance song.

A staple of 1970s Japanese animation, a classic soundtrack and an iconic hero. A triple powerhouse combination on why Cutie Honey lives on in it’s original and more current adaptations (including an awesomely bad live action version). When evil calls we will always have Honey Kisaragi to save the day. “I’m changing now”… wink!

#79 : Wanna-Be’s

Wannabes_01Let’s talk a serious topic here. Professional wrestling! To be more precise, women’s professional wrestling. OK? I bet you thought I was going to say politics and religion in our current society , or perhaps in 15th century Europe. And YES, we can talk about religion and politics, but I can’t just yet, because… because… we have to talk about awesomely cheesy wrestling anime for this entry. Recently we had an option come out called Wannabe the Strongest in the World, but that’s a newer entry and I talk about older and defunct titles. Perhaps if I shorten the title… to Wanna-Be’s… and like magic I have a wrestling one off OVA from 1986… press play.

CWannabes_02ould this be just a bad clone of the Dirty Pair? Miki and Eri are close doppelgängers to Kei and Yuri respectively. Maybe it is, maybe not, I say who cares! What I can say is Wanna-Be’s is perhaps the overlooked middle child for studio AIC during their 80s run where they created anime with a focus on strong female casts. The other two productions, Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis, had a chance to expand beyond being a single entry. Incidentally, Kenichi Sonoda’s character designs are all over all three of these entries. Wanna-Be’s, poor thing, never got to be a multiple entry production. Quality over quantity perhaps? Then again, an OVA about wrestling will never be highbrow material. And again I say who cares, the production runs just under an hour so grab that popcorn and… press play.

Wannabes_03We begin our story with a tag team match between the cute and heroic Dream Team and those tough bad girls with attitude, the Foxy Ladies. The Foxy Ladies are considered the queens of the ring and how they keep that crown is by fighting dirty and rough. The Wanna-Be’s, the Dream Team’s understudies perhaps, watch from the side lines as the nice girls literally get the stuffing knocked out of them. The match goes to the Foxy Ladies and soon their sights are set on the up and coming Wanna-Be’s. Now this is where our story starts to divert from a stock and trade sports anime, but then again in professional sports this next topic is an oh so common practice. And that would be? Performance enhancement! This is interesting… press play.

Our Lovely Angels, whoops wrong anime, I mean Wanna-Be’s would rather be out having a good time at the clubs, chatting it up with cute guys, etc., but that has to end. Getting back to performance enhancement, this is a call for lots and lots of… training. In combination with lifting and practice, these girls are under the eye of the Kidou Corporation as they use a mega-steroid to get pumped up to 1). be guinea pigs for this drug (this is only the tip of the iceberg of what is behind this company) and 2). to kick the crap out of those meany Foxy Ladies. Why can’t we just fight this fair and square kids? But then again, fair and square would have made this a mediocre and formulaic mid-80s OVA. Can’t have that, because I need a reason to… press play.

Wannabes_04Wanna-Be’s has an iconic spot on my shelf, on LaserDisc no less. Mmm… 12 inch platters are so yummy. I love quality anime (just remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but I have a soft spot for cheesy titles that have so much entertainment value that you cannot consider them bad, even if they don’t have a lot of lasting qualities. Wanna-Be’s is like The Humanoid for me in that regard. Products of their respective generation that have moved past their sell by dates and become unique gems in hiding. If you have a copy, either digital or physical, or come across a copy of Wanna-Be’s… press play.

#78 : Saint Seiya: The Movies

Saint Seiya, oh how I love thee, let me count the ways… I can forgive many of the short comings of Saint Seiya. In essence, it is a run of the mill shonen fighter, but the inclusion of Greek mythology, astrology and heavy melodrama make it a heavy favorite for me. The original TV series I love dearly, the manga was great, the Hades Arc OVAs which finished the original manga adaptation was welcomed. A couple years ago, the company Discotek released a bunch of SS materials. I bought a few of these DVDs and here is what came of that purchase.

SS_M_1I will only make comment on the four SS films that were released from 1987 to 1989. All of these were released by Discotek and fall into my blog’s concentration on anime of the 1970s and 1980s. Several other productions would appear decades later, but these four titles will be under the spotlight: Evil Goddess Eris (1987), The Heated Battle of the Gods (1988), Legend of Crimson Youth (1988) and Warriors of the Final Holy Battle (1989). All four are out of canon to the original manga and ironically The Heated Battle of the Gods is an alternative to the filler Asgard Arc from the TV series. These films are more for fun and I am sure were created to keep the SS marketing machine going.

SS_M_2All four movies are very cliche and are so formulaic that I end up predicting the whole plot before the beginning credits. Though each film has it’s own pace and variation on the so called theme, or leitmotif of the fightype formula of successive adversaries leading up to, they all kind of go like this… A great arch enemy descends and brings five subordinates. In the process Saori/Athena either gets kidnapped, or wooed away (if this enemy is oh so charming and handsome). Then our five Bronze Saints begin there quest to save their sacred leader. Usually Pegasus Seiya goes first and then gets that crap kicked out of him, but defeats the adversary. Next comes Cygnus Hyoga and the process repeats and then we get to Dragon Shiryu. He as well falls after a great fight, but Shiryu ends up having his cloth removed because we all have to witness his owe so muscular chest. Seriously, watch any SS and this always happen.

SS_M_3Next we get a double feature with Andromeda Shun, the ‘cute’ one who is more of a pacifist, also falls victim to his adversary. And that is when Shun’s brother Phoenix Ikki shows up and says, “Yo, you be messin’ with my brother? I’m gonna mess you up good!” Then Ikki puts the smack down. Seriously, always bailing out your younger brother. When will Shun learn to take care of himself? Later, Athena falls into further peril and all five of the boys, though being deeply beaten, trek towards the final showdown to take down the big bad enemy. All five boys take a stand one at a time and then like a miracle of the heavens, the Sagittarius Gold Cloth appears. Of course it chooses Seiya every time and all the boys cry out “Seiya, Seiya” and after that… Seiya reborn to perfection and full of strength draws the bow to shoot the golden arrow to save the day. Then all is happy ever after. …you can’t make this all up?

SS_M_4Of the four films, three are 45 minute shorts so it makes sense that they are not the most deep in regards for plot. You are cramming a supposed arc into less than an hour! The third film, Legend of Crimson Youth, which is over an hour long, has a plot that bends the predictive formula and has a bit more drama and… is my favorite of the four. Plus, in this film, we see the resurrection and inclusion of the five Gold Saints who fell during the Sanctuary Arc of the TV series: Gemini Saga, Cancer Deathmask, Capricorn Shura, Aquarius Camus and Pisces Aphrodite. Gold Saints forever!, they add to the plot greatly. This was also a film which celebrated the 20th anniversary of SS’s parent publisher, Shonen Jump.

So in final, I would watch these one at a time and… Nothing is ever a substitute for that original Sanctuary arc of the TV series 🙂 These are, as mentioned earlier, sideline stories that are not a part of the original plot so take these for what you will.