A-ko the Versus

October 7, 2004 on 10:31 pm | In Project A-Ko | Comments Off on A-ko the Versus

Project A-ko runs into a dead end with this, A-ko the Versus. A completely different universe OVA, with only the three -ko girls in common with its predecessors, this is one of those anime you may have been warned about: the pointless mini series.
Take Moriyama Yuji’s name off the character design, writing, and direction teams (he still works in key animation) and you have Nishijima Katsuhiko’s poor, lifeless cash-in.

On a distant planet, A-ko and B-ko work together to hunt and sell sand turtles. One day a ten year old heiress, C-ko, falls into their cargo. This C-ko has been abducted by two terrorists, Grash and Liza, to offer to their leader Gail – who in turn plans to call into the girl’s body the spirit of the high priestess Xena, who is capable of resurrecting a giant three headed dragon, who will proceed to destroy this universe and replace it with another.
All because of a nun who died twenty years ago.

The Versus is a confusing mix of fantasci-fi – the plot itself is actually found in countless fantasy stories (Record of Lodoss War not least among them) – and the story is so sparsely populated that it is hard to believe that there is a universe for the villains to destroy. The story telling is clumsy, featuring awkward and sudden exposition along the lines of “What do you think of our boss’s plan to revive the high priestess and summon the mighty dragon?”
I’m going to come right out with a spoiler here, just to illustrate the program’s lack of sense. One of the big “dramatic pulls” of the program is that Gail kills B-ko with his psychic ability. The policeman Maruten tells A-ko that he will bring her back to life if she agrees to help. How this works is never explained, as all of his comrades have died and not returned – but B-ko is alive and well in the next scene.

This is very thick and hard to understand; it’s not like the story is particularly difficult, it’s that characterisation is not strong at all. The idea that no matter what universe, A-ko and B-ko will fight is proposed. But these aren’t alternate universe versions of these characters. Fundamentally, this A-ko and B-ko are friends. It really seems that the A-ko title is just for brand recognition, because apart from a few second cameo from the Akagiyama missiles this bears little resemblance to the original continuity. Firstly, the characters are redesigned (for the uglier), secondly, C-ko is ten years old and thirdly it’s set in a desolate wasteland.
A-ko and B-ko as friends on any level betrays everything, as does the idea of A-ko disliking C-ko. The triangle that held the OVAs together and is dissolved by B-ko’s brief foray into loli-con. Also, making B-ko the nice one? That’s stretching it really, really far.
The new characters are either underused or ill explained. The spirituality and Gail’s motives really needed some sort of depth to them, because it was quite difficult to empathise with a doomed universe with nothing in it. B-ko’s actions seemed rather arbitrarily placed to force the plot along.

There’s a brief moment when everything picks right up – when the OVA becomes a dramatic romance story between A-ko and Kei: in other words, a continuation of the original series. However, it’s all a joke, which is really quite disappointing. Seeing more of that sort of stuff, with the style of animation that they were using would have actually been interesting. When it returned to the desolate future, everything sank. It was almost as if Nishijima was asking if he had taken the wrong path.

A-ko the Versus is from a different production company to the previous; Pony Canyon no longer producing. The staff are much the same as previously, but Nishijima Katsuhiko takes the helm and redesigns the characters a little. They look simpler and uglier. The whole project does not look very nice at all, and the colours are disturbingly solid. One of the under-used villains has huge boobs, but is not appealing in any way. It’s really quite disturbing when A-ko punches her right in the cleavage. The cel work is much simpler, and there’s no fan service level detail in the mechanical designs.
Most surprising is the music, composed by big league musician Kawai Kenji. Because of the material it is being used on, it’s largely forgettable. When one chooses to notice it, however, it’s quite strong. The ED songs are pretty nice, but eminently unmemorable outside of the credits.
Michizawa Tomie as Xena was an unexpectedly high quality performance, that raised the whole thing just that little bit.

Nishijima Katsuhiko went on to direct Studio Fantasia’s glossy, high class fan service extravaganzas (case in point: Aika). Here he suffers Moriyama’s randomly inflicted illness, making an utterly pointless adventure with little to recommend about it. The original Project A-ko was a true anime classic. The following four productions were, without doubt, entirely non-essential.

Project A-Ko 4

September 19, 2004 on 1:30 pm | In Project A-Ko | Comments Off on Project A-Ko 4

This is undoubtedly the best Project A-Ko since the first. What they appear to have done is taken Project A-Ko and turned it into a drama. That’s right, a dramatic episode! Just what Moriyama was trying to do with his child is beyond me, but this entry works quite well – although, on closer examination, it might not actually make any sense.

Project A-ko 4 opens with a party of archaeologists digging in the ruins of Iraq (why Iraq is in ruins is anyone’s guess, as this anime was made some time prior to the Gulf War) and discovering a tablet that prophesies the coming of an alien race to reclaim their Goddess. Their symbol is the Star of David – which of course raises the question “Jewish aliens?”.
Coincidentally (or is it?!), Miss Ume – hard done by teacher of A-ko, B-ko and C-ko – wears a pendant around her neck that bears the very same Star of David (embellished with a heart in the middle). Further to this coincidence, an alien fleet is bearing down on Earth – their mother ship emblazoned with the Star of David!
These – of course, unrelated – events culminate in a story that involves Miss Ume’s wedding to A-ko and B-ko’s “true love”, Kei, and C-ko’s intense jealousy of all of A-ko’s fun.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to realise that in this case there isn’t a whole lot of Judaism going on – this is anime, after all, and sometimes a symbol is just a symbol.

Project A-ko 4 isn’t riotous, but it’s well done. The archaeological dig scenes are presented in a mysterious fashion, the marriage interview is downright awkward, and its revealed that all of these characters actually have hearts. C-ko, world renowned for having the most piercing voice and no sense of what’s happening around her, gets to show some depth. Her final scenes are actually, in some way, moving. A-ko and B-ko can actually cooperate when they see what is right, and really, everyone should be friends.
This also boasts the best animation out of the three followups.

So what Project A-ko boiled down to was the power of friendship. Nothing can match the original, but 4 was at least worth its while – with its unique atmosphere and interesting (and largely successful) attempts to lend depth to the characters. Moriyama was not attached to The Versus, so it still remains to be seen how that one went.

Project A-Ko 2

August 19, 2004 on 6:29 pm | In Project A-Ko | Comments Off on Project A-Ko 2

Let us, for one moment, attempt a metaphor: Consider an orange. Run this orange through a juicer – what you get is the nourishing juice, and the empty, soulless remains of the orange. Project A-Ko 2 is that orange. After the slightly tart fun of the first film, comes the first of three yearly OVA sequels. It’s not bad, it’s just not anything.

Three weeks or so after the events of the first OVA, the aliens have turned their crashed ship into a luxury spot to pay for repairs to return to their home planet. Meanwhile, B-ko’s father is hired by the government to destroy the ship, while he wants to claim the technology for himself. Incidentally, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko are there. Then it ends in exactly the same way as the original, despite not having had any of the character experience to bring it there.

Project A-ko feels like a blank fifty minutes. There are a few surprise cameos by characters from Wings of Honneamise and a few other projects, but there are no real visual gags, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko don’t actually get to do anything. Mari sadly gets no dialogue, which was what made her a complete character originally, and D and the Captain wear dresses, which just isn’t funny.
Also, there’s no American eighties pop soundtrack. On the plus side, the ED song is pretty good and has some creditable English rhymes (“Baby, feel my inspiration/and baby, take my invitation”)

It’s hard to criticise something that’s neither fun or painful. Project A-ko 2 is an unworthy successor to the measured insanity of the original. Director Moriyama took the interestingly crumpled shirt of Project A-ko and ironed it.
Final analogy: It’s like someone took the Shroud of Turin and decided to clean it up. Project A-ko 2 isn’t bland simply by comparison to its predecessor; it’s just bland in general.

Project A-Ko

July 11, 2004 on 7:06 pm | In Project A-Ko | Comments Off on Project A-Ko

Project A-ko is home of perhaps the most annoying character in anime history; a character so annoying that one can never decide whether to laugh or cringe at her actions and therefore end up doing both. A character so beguiling that two wars are fought to lay claim to her.
Featuring an eighties American pop soundtrack and every joke that had ever been invented up to that point in history, it’s definitely a memorable film.

A-ko and C-ko move to a new school in Graviton city. There they meet B-ko, who instantly falls in love with C-Ko and tries at all costs to extricate A-Ko from their lives. B-ko’s arsenal of robots, however, is no match for A-ko’s superhuman strength … and all the while they’re being monitored by aliens!
Project A-ko is clearly a collection of everything under the sun, and proud of it. Despite the mash together, it’s actually a surprisingly coherent film.

The characters are simple: A-ko is just a girl who wants to get to school on time; C-ko is her best friend who can’t cook, is really loud and cries a lot; B-ko is the rich girl who builds robots because she wants to wrest C-ko from A-ko’s evil clutches; Mysterious Character “D” is a mysterious character who never learns his lesson. Still, the pattern works. It’s substantial without being anything at the same time, making for a mighty confusing event.
Each day, A-ko and C-ko come to school, and B-ko is waiting at the gate for them with a new machine to take out her vengeance. Then the aliens come to Earth and all of the Earth’s forces are deployed for one big climactic battle!

Project A-ko is considered the ultimate in parody anime. While this isn’t as much of a misnomer as Martian Successor Nadesico, one of the most sleighted titles of modern times, it still robs the film of part of it spark to call it that. There’s no doubt that there are elements of parody riddled throughout, but to call the entire thing a “parody” suggests that it alone doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It’s by no means a strong story, but it’s a well told one that was lovingly crafted. Parody suggests too much in the way of cynicism, and correct usage of the term should be enforced. With an iron fist. Loving homage is more like it, but Project A-ko is too much like everything else to be like anything else. It’s the concentration of vitality that makes it such a delight to watch.

Moriyama Yuji, the man who seems to be responsible for almost all of Central Park Media’s catalogue, wrote directed and designed the characters. They’re all very attractive with their eighties hair styles and, at least in C-ko’s case, never closing mouths. The men went to the Fist of the North Star school of grooming, although after a while you might question whether the film actually has any men in it. It messes with your mind that way. Anyway, it’s always very well animated and designed, in a way that you don’t really see any more with the seeming death of mechanical otaku writers and directors. They’re probably still around, but now they care more about the environment.

Project A-ko is another “spirit of the eighties” anime; this is compounded by the music, which was actually outsourced to America. As a result, the soundtrack is a haven of sci-fi music that only the eighties could yield and glorious, wonderful eighties motivational love songs! A mixture of industrial sounds and pop make the film more memorable than it already is, with its scarily masculine men and penchant for destruction.

Project A-ko makes a lot more sense than it sounds like it does. It’s very simple, and by that token it’s too complex to write about. The layers of parody encompass a lot of anime that most of the modern generation of fans could never hope to see, but it’s funny enough by itself. Just so long as C-Ko’s scream doesn’t destroy your brain before you can finish it.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^