Project A-Ko is one of those classic anime OVAs that really takes me back. I haven't watched the show in forever and yet after a few minutes waves of nostalgia overcame me. A silly grin was plastered on my face and I found myself laughing at all the same gags and jokes. Thank goodness Eastern Star rescued this license and has released it on DVD for the first time in nine years.
Originally released in Japan in 1986, Project A-Ko is an 86 minute OVA produced by Soeishinsha and Studio A.P.P.P.. The release proved to be popular enough with the masses and two sequels were produced as well, but this review is strictly for the original (and best in my opinion). Just what makes Project A-Ko so great?
For starters, let me just say that one of the things I love most about Project A-Ko is the irreverence of it all. There's really no rhyme or reason to what's going on and much of the series is made up with tongue-in-cheek references to other anime of the day. Expect to see spoofs on Fist of the North Star, Captain Harlock, Gundam, and Macross just to name a few. This adds to the personality, but despite the atmosphere of a parody that abounds, the show really finds its own voice somewhere in the mix. The brand of humor, lively characters, and outrageous plot prove to be more than entertaining.
Project A-Ko takes place shortly into the future where a major city is hit by a meteor. Years later the metropolis is rebuild within the crater and mankind has been reaching further into the stars with technological advances. In the midst of the city is a school, and attending that school on their first day are two young girls named A-Ko and C-Ko.
Initially A-Ko and C-Ko seem like normal every day girls. It becomes evident right away that something is off with A-Ko. She displays superhuman strength, the ability to run at mach speed, and can even leap over builds in a single bound. C-Ko, however, is a crybaby and often bursts into tears whenever she needs to leave A-Ko's side. On their first day at the academy C-Ko gains an admirer in the form of B-Ko, who is the school's well-to-do queen. B-Ko is surrounded by a gaggle of girls who aren't afraid to do her bidding and once she sets her heart on gaining C-Ko's affection she comes up with dastardly ways to push A-Ko to the wayside.
A rivalry quickly forms between A-Ko and B-Ko, with C-Ko caught in the middle and always running back to her childhood friend. The battle between the school girls grows to absurd levels and eventually mechs, deadly lasers, missiles, and flying power suits are employed by B-Ko. A-Ko takes them all on while hardly breaking a sweat and it would appear that, for some reason, she's invulnerable. There truly is no rhyme or reason to it, but the inevitable climax of the film brings alien invaders into the picture for A-Ko and B-Ko to find a common enemy with.
It's random, hilarious, and strange, but somehow Project A-Ko is one of the most entertaining OVAs of its era. The sheer insanity of it all adds a lot of quirky charm to it and the fact that some things are never explained helps a great deal. It's a great show that is timeless in terms of Japanese animation, and it will be most appreciated by anime lovers knowledgeable enough to get the many references. I have to go with a high recommendation for this one!
Since Project A-Ko is a production of the mid-80s it really shouldn't be a surprise that it's presented with a 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio and wears its age in each frame. Colors are faded, there is dirt and speckle, and there's an abundance of grain. With that being said the quality was better than I was expecting and it's pleasing to the eye overall. The animation is fluid, there aren't any glaring defects, and any nitpicks regarding the video are purely attributed to the age of the material.
The audio in Project A-Ko is good as well, though it's limited and the presentation is to be somewhat expected. 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo is what you're going to get here, but the kicker is that it includes both the English and Japanese dub. While the English dub was "okay" I definitely appreciated the Japanese track the most. As far as the technical aspects are concerned the quality is decent, but not outstanding. A limited soundstage and flat front-centric audio are what you're going to find here.
For bonus features, there's actually a surprising amount to check out. For starters there are music videos, an outtake, and a collection of trailers and TV commercials. A solid behind-the-scenes original Japanese video is included, as is an interview with writer Yuji Moriyama and an audio commentary by him as well. The amount and quality of the extras included here really speak to the love of the project. You simply don't see material like this in anime these days and it was a breath of fresh air to see a release packed with detail.
I can't stress enough exactly how much fun Project A-Ko was. It's a classic among classics and the brand of humor the show offers really sets it apart from everything else on the market. If you've never seen the OVA before, you'll want to pick this up. It's a must own title that deserves to be in every anime fan's collection. The picture quality was better than I was expecting and the extra features show a dedication of love to the project. Highly Recommended all around!