Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Top Ten Least Essential OVA Of The 80s

The internet is filled with sequentially numbered, attention-getting listsicles all claiming to be the authoritative judgment on the top fifteen party schools to visit after you master your five best workouts or the twenty-five movies you must not fail to see with the ten people you meet when you die. And here at Let’s Anime we’re just as lame, even though our focus is classic Japanese cartoons. So here’s an exhaustively researched, completely subjective and arbitrary list of the Top Ten Least Essential OVAs That Honestly, You Don’t Need To Watch.  You can safely go on about your life without ever having wasted your time watching these 1980s Japanese anime OVAs; other than filling the shelves of neighborhood video rental shops, they are inconsequential in every sense of the word.  Some of them are bad, some of them are boring, and others make no sense whatsoever, their only common denominator being their total uselessness. And remember, like every other stupid list you find on the internets, this is completely arbitrary, subject only to the reviewer’s whimsical notions, and may not reflect your personal taste or reality in any way whatsoever. 

Headbands are an essential part of your 1980s fashion
 Cosmos Pink Shock - 7-21-1986 This one’s a lightweight and knows it, but the great Toshiki “Iczer One” Hirano is here at the height of his powers, giving us the story of Michi, a space leotard girl who blasts across a goofy universe in her ship, the Pink Shock,  in pursuit of her boyfriend.  It’s got good AIC animation, some gags – not great gags, but gags nonetheless – and cultural references that we didn’t get in the 80s because our knowledge of Japan was limited to Robotech, ninja movies and metal robot toys. It’s the OVA equivalent of a 12” remix by Bananarama or the Mary Jane Girls – a perfect artifact of its time whose greatest virtue is being a perfect artifact of its time.
Dead Heat - 8-7-1987 In the future, auto racing is known as ‘FX’ and the drivers don’t drive cars, they drive car-robot hybrid vehicles, and they don’t just race, they grapple with each other as they go around the track. Seems like a lot of mechanical engineering simply to replicate roller derby, but who am I to argue with the future?  This Sunrise OVA is of interest mostly to people who for some reason are unable to watch either roller derby or auto racing, and who wonder if our hero Makoto will win the big race so he can take his surprisingly male-looking girlfriend to a love hotel. If you had a dedicated 3D compatible VHD player with 3D glasses,  you could watch Dead Heat in thrilling 3D, with the exciting bonus of witnessing an extra character who was only visible in 3D. Legend has it this character holds up a sign marked with the Japanese characters for “sucker”. 

Makoto and "girlfriend"

Elf 17 - 1-4-1987  Based on the manga by Atsuji Yamamoto, Elf 17 is a cutesy lightweight romp through the galaxy as our title character, the strongest little teenage girl elf in the universe, teams up with the eccentric zillionaire prince Mascot Tyler and the battle-suit otaku K.K. as they battle their way through the pro-wrestling areas of outer space. This airy trifle comes complete with giant walking tanuki statues and a Mitokomon reference, and it completely misrepresents Yamamoto’s manga work, which started off kinda lurid and just got more lurid with time. Later Yamamoto works include “Battle Goddess” and the super bloody, ultra lurid “Arnis In Sword Land.”  Yamamoto also provided the story for another completely non-essential OVA, Ultimate Teacher.

Ruu, aka Elf 17, will kick your ass
 Phantom Gentleman aka Dream Detective Gentleman (Mugen Shinshi: Boken Katsugeki Hen) - 2-21-1987 Mamiya Mugen is a famous detective, a famous, kinda girly-looking kid detective, who works in a weird retro 1930s Japan.  Strange kidnappers target club dancer Atsuko “Akko” Fukune - but Mugen is on the case to protect Tokyo’s exotic dancers! This 49 minute video mixes cutesy character designs with what you’re led to believe is going to be some kind of detective story but instead detours into magical relics, mythical monsters, and Indiana Jones-style adventure, but all the busty dancing girls or archeological destruction can’t help make this inexplicable film any more explicable. If we were Japanese we’d be familiar with the popular Mugen Shinshi manga by Yosuke Takahashi, but his eerily sensual pen line failed utterly to make the transition to this anime.  
underage drinkin', underage detectin'
Roots Search - 9-10-1986 This one is bad and it should feel bad.  Roots Search, aka “Life Devourer X”, is like something a dollar store or a truck stop chain would produce to cash in on what they heard was the exciting new “Japanimation” fad, like something you find hundreds of dumped at a Goodwill for a tax loss; poorly animated, badly designed characters wander through various spaceships having ESP visions and dodging a horrifying vagina dentata alien that murders astronauts. And then it just ends, denying the remaining few viewers any sort of closure.  This one is by some of the same people that brought us Crystal Triangle, another really terrible OVA that at least has an ending.

Good Morning Althea - 12-16-1987 This might be the exact point where Japan just gave up and decided to just throw mechanical designs at their OVA projects in the hope that the resulting confusion would resolve itself into some kind of interesting pattern. This is the sort of OVA you watch without subtitles and naturally assume that what’s going on makes sense and is in some way purposeful and of interest, and then later somebody fansubs it and you find out that the pattern your brain attempted to impose upon it actually made more sense than what was originally intended. There’s a spaceship, there are robots, there are people in robots fighting other people in robots from another spaceship. Somebody wakes up.

rise and shine Althea
The Humanoid - 3-5-1986 If you spent any time in the 1980s you’ll recognize his work: the shiny airbrush work of Hajime Sorayama appeared on the covers of Playboy and Heavy Metal and on album covers for bands like The Cars and Aerosmith. And if you find the idea of a shiny metal woman interesting enough to support a 40-minute animated video, then The Humanoid is for you! Antoinette, the sexy robot in question, was built by Dr. Watson on the planet Lazeria, which is about to be destroyed by the evil Governor Proud, right when Dr. Watson’s daughter Sheri and her hunky fiancĂ© Alan arrive. Terrible timing!  Luckily, this all happens when Antoinette’s sexy robot heart starts to have robot feelings of love, and she uses her sexy robot power to save the day. This 40-minute time-waster has lackluster character designs, cheesy 80s ballads, and an inexplicable obsession with coffee. 

Digital Devil Story (Megami Tensei) - 1987 Based on the Japanese horror novel series by Aya Nishitani, this one’s about a student computer genius, who’s also the reincarnation of an ancient Japanese deity, who uses his giant clunky 80s mainframe to summon up some horrifying devils. This involves some not-bad animation of a well-endowed teacher’s frilly brassiere heaving up and down as she becomes the conduit for horrifying monsters from another dimension to invade our world. Then giant piles of red goop start crushing students and a big blue hairy devil named Loki fights our student computer genius hero, who fights back with his reincarnated girlfriend and his magic sword and his pet devil animal throughout several alternate universes.  If you want lots of mid 1980s computer technology and lots of scenes of people staring intently at old-fashioned CRT monitors, followed by hairy devils and magic swords, this is the one for you! The Hiroyuki Kitazume character designs aren’t bad, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Apparently there are a lot of video games based on this novel, and I suspect they aren’t very essential either. 

Chojiku Romanesque Samy – Missing 99 - 7-5-1986  Let’s see, what we have here is your typical everyday story of a typical anime schoolgirl who finds out she actually has amazing mystical powers that not only transport her into an amazing fantasy world but give her amazing super battle armor that doubles as a bikini. Raise your hands if you’ve seen this all before. Can she survive the attack of the reconstructed demon beast warriors in time to reveal her true Bodhisattva nature? 

Girls Detective Club (Katsugeki Shoujo Tanteidan) - 11-25-1986  You’d think that a video starring three high school girls armed with automatic weapons battling an evil girl-genius with a giant flying battleship would be jam packed with the same sort of excitement and flash that made Project A-Ko such a success, but you’d be wrong. This stunningly boring piece of junk – from TMS, shockingly enough - limps from nonsensical setup to nonsensical setup, never explaining who these girls are, why they have a detective club, why one of them lives in a mansion filled with machine guns, or why this was animated in the first place. It feels like a Cream Lemon with all the sex removed, like an episode of Urusei Yatsura without gags, fun characters, or pleasant design, like a half hour of your life without anything productive or fulfilling accomplished. What purpose Girls Detective Club served other than clogging shelves down at Tsutaya Video is a mystery which I suppose we’ll need to hire a Girls Detective Club to solve. 

get detecting, you
 What’s that? I didn’t mention The Wanna-Bes or Twilight Q or Twinkle Heart or even Twinkle Rock Me Nora? Didn’t see your favorite least essential OVA listed here? Ready to take this to social media and tell the world how Let’s Anime arbitrarily ignored your favorite least essential OVA in its totally subjective list? Sure, why not. Make sure to let us know what YOUR time-wastingest OVA is, or was; maybe we can get another column out of ‘em.

-Dave Merrill

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

you know, for kids

Here's a fun thing, a translation of a children's book from the 1982-83 Nippon Sunrise anime series SENTO MECHA XABUNGLE.  Let your children drift off to dreamland with this tale of one man's search for bloody outer-space wild-west vengeance! Translations by, and many thanks to, Ric Zerrano.

(Click on images to do an enlarging Mecha-Change)