The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Project A-ko

Title: Project A-ko
Company: Soeishinsha
Genre: Comedy/Action
Format: Movie; 80 minutes.
Dates: 21 Jun 1986

Synopsis: Sixteen years after an asteroid destroyed Graviton City, the world’s strongest schoolgirl Eiko (A-ko) has her first day at her new high school. Together with her best friend Shiko (C-ko), she’s looking forward to a great start into a new part of her life. However, when she meets her childhood rival Biko (B-ko), a genius at building giant battle robots, at that very same high school, things start to get ugly. And when a bunch of aliens also start to take some interest in her, the chaos is complete…

The Highlights
Theme: Striking parody of virtually all anime classics.
Animation: Great combat choreography.
Humor: Wacky as can be.
Comedy: Requires too much knowledge of anime classics, at times too wacky for its own good.
Annoying character: C-ko.

Ah, the good old days of anime. Magical girls. Huge mechas. Highschool romance. Martial arts. Whiny kids who can’t cook. Class bullys. Alien spacefleets that threaten to destroy humanity. Even though much of it is just terrible cliché, the “classics” of anime defined the entire genre, and even today, the original designs are still recognizable.

Project A-ko is a movie which directly appeals to the otaku who knows everything. It’s a parody of all the classic anime that were great between the 60s and 80s: Macross style space battles between the human defenders and a fleet of invading aliens. Huge Gundam style mechas. Super-powered magical schoolgirls. A spaceship captain who looks disturbingly similar to Matsumoto Leiji’s Captain Harlock. Big robots that combine to form bigger robots. The more you know about anime, the more you’ll recognize here. That doesn’t mean that Project A-ko is not watchable if you don’t know classic anime. The animation and combat choreography are surprisingly good for a production from 1986, and if you take the movie as a pure action comedy, it’s simply good entertainment. Lots of explosions to keep you thrilled, lots of martial arts to cheer at and lots of humor to laugh at.

And what wacky humor that is! Virtually everything you know from the old clichés is given a different twist, be it the truth about the alien invaders, the operation of Transformer style mechas or the effects of Fist of the North Star martial arts. Most of the humor is generic situation comedy, but the absolutely over-the-top characters also have their share of laughs. A-kos and B-kos ever-escalating rivalry alone is good for many hearty laughs, and if you add the weird aliens to the mix, it gets even better. The plot may not make much sense, but you probably won’t care anyway. Almost all of the seiyuu work overtime to make the best of their roles, and you can literally hear how much they love mocking their classic predecessors.

Of course, the more of the parody you understand, the better Project A-ko will look to you. Without any knowledge of anime classics, some of the humor unfortunately doesn’t work at all. And even if you know and understand all the parody in Project A-ko, some of it can still be a little too wacky. There are one or two jokes in the movie that are rather tasteless, a few cases of “accidental dirty speech” and, of course, the infamous plot revolving around B-ko’s crush on C-ko. Maybe it’s just the cultural gap, but where I come from, a lesbian pedophile is considered disturbing, not funny.

And now that C-ko (Shiko) has already been mentioned, it cannot be stressed enough how much this character is grating not only on the nerves of everybody in the movie but also on those of everybody in the audience. C-ko is your generic tiny blonde crybaby; she looks at least four years younger than A-ko and six years younger than B-ko, and there is no explanation why she would go to the same high school as the two of them. Even moreso, she has no likable traits whatsoever. Why anyone would want to be her friend (let alone fight for her friendship) is absolutely beyond me.

Project A-ko is probably the best parody anime out there, and even though some of the humor doesn’t work unless you have a very good grasp of anime history, it’s still an entertaining action comedy. In the tradition of movies like Airplane! and Loaded Weapon, however, you’ll laugh the most if you know what you’re laughing at. If you ever needed a good reason to catch up on Anime History 101, Project A-ko could be that reason for you.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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