So yes, let’s into the realms of anime history once again. Something that continues to happen This time, let’s look at a pretty cool 80’s film which is the epitome of animators having fun. Yes, it’s Project A-Ko. I’m sure that you’ve all read the title of this post. This is a film series that’s provides the atmosphere, zone of fandom energy, creativity to where a group like Gainax could exist. Produced in 1986, the first Project A-Ko film was created during when Japan’s bubble economy was fully in boom. For this post, I only plan on discussing each film whenever I feel like it in separate parts. Nothing set in stone, just when I get the itch to watch another film. I feel like I have to save these because of how special these are and how much I want to enjoy them.
Project A-ko’s premise is simple enough. I mean, even the names are simple which is nice for people like me who are very bad at remembering any anime character’s name. In Graviton City, one super powered school girl named A-Ko, who is a lazy sleeper, is hurried up by a kinder girl named C-Ko before they are late to their new school. Of course, this leads to the legendary moment where A-Ko grabs C-Ko’s hand and runs through city streets and climbs buildings to get to school. At this school is where another girl, B-ko, tries to separate the two. She is in love with C-ko and is the Lex Luthor to A-ko’s superman. After groups of bullies don’t work, B-Ko builds more robots that don’t work until she creates her power bikini that allows her to be equal with A-Ko in strength.
Years before this happens and then eventually during A-Ko and B-Ko’s fight, an alien invasion is in progress. The alien’s spy, D, gets crushed by A-Ko’s school runs all the time for instance. The presence was always there. The city the conflict happened at was rebuilt after a space ship crashed there years ago. They came back to take their princess, C-Ko, back home. The result of which is a very Gundam and Macross battle in space and the city below while the fight between A-Ko and B-Ko are in motion. A-Ko and B-Ko even fling human and alien tanks at each other while they are fighting not even noticing. Of course, the two don’t realize this until C-Ko is captured by the aliens which leads to a temporary truce.
So yeah, it’s a bit scatter brained and I think that’s ok. I would live to watch the simple yet completely ridiculous love triangle between A-Ko, B-Ko, and C-Ko alone, but if alien invasions are going to happen, I am always up for more space things to happen. Ok, it’s not a complete love triangle because A-Ko doesn’t think of C-Ko in that way, but they are childhood friends so they care for each other. Plus, the first half was a little repetitive anyway. Lots of cuts of A-Ko and C-Ko causing trouble at school with C-Ko’s crying, A-Ko constantly destroying any threat, bully or otherwise, and B-Ko coming up with new plans. It’s very archetypal character drama. A-ko as the not aware shonen hero, B-Ko as the arcetypal Oujou-sama and A-Ko’s rival, and C-Ko just being a princess in general that wants everything she demands. Not much happens to change this dynamic in this film and that’s ok. This is fun.
The references and alien attacks provide some really cool things to break up the show a little bit. The first appearance of Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star as a school girl named Mari fighting against A-Ko was where I first lost it. I felt the same when the aliens attacked with the Yamato/Arcadia/Macross hybrid ship led by a drunken Captain Harlock on top of this fact as well. Then again, I can say the same about all of B-Ko’s mecha she attacked A-Ko with. I don’t feel like I recognized all of them, but there was some solid mecha references that were there just to be there. I’m sure that I am missing a lot more, but it’s fun regardless.
I know that I shouldn’t say this in the age of things like Symphogear and such, but there is a wide variety of fanservice in this show as well. Not just in terms of references in fun, but focusing on A-Ko in a lot of ways. Well, besides B-Ko’s battle bikini. It’s not bad, but just something to take note of. There are shots that show what she is and isn’t wearing while sleeping, some panty shots with one of them being when she sits on top of a pilots cockpit and HUD, and even some clothing damage during the hallways of the spaceship during sword fights. Not to mention the tons and tons of panties and bras in the space ship’s locked up vault. That just came out of nowhere in the most hilarious way. So, it’s not bad. It can just be distracting if the viewer cares for those things.
That brings me to the greatest piece of this film, the visuals. Even without the version I saw being in HD, it still looks outstanding. The character designs themselves are very simple, but it allows the animators to do whatever they want with them easily. You know, like running around cities, jumping and climbing buildings, and getting into some cool fights. Even the jokes with Mari doing Kenshiro things were fully fledged out then even the anime could do. Then there is the mechanical design, which as a side thing, looks utterly fantastic. So much detail, love, and effort went into what they look like, and how they move. I think this entire film could be summarized as “detail, love, and effort” now that I think about it.
And that’s what is to go on here. It’s not a deep thing, but something you can watch if you want to have a lot of fun. It’s like watching two kids in a sand box playing with their toys, except with anime, and that’s why it’s so entertaining. I do think that there is a jarring connection and editing from one detail or plot to another, but that’s the only major complaint I have. It’s very stream of consciousness in terms of writing, which is why I am going to give it a good instead of a solid. I think this is something that every anime fan should watch at some point. This thing is so influential to a lot of anime movies and series that came after it and you can see that in almost every single scene and frame of Project A-Ko. Old things are great sometimes.