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With it's frantic pace, superb animation, and a DVD packed full of extras, (Project Ako) is one film you have to own.
Review by Matthew Anderson
3 Part OVA (Original Series)
Company: Central Park Media
Running Time:86 Min
Rating: PG-13 (Partial nudity, violence)
Biko (Bko) Daitokuji has it all. Beauty, intelligence, money, and power. Driven to succeed, there is nothing in this world she can not possess.
Except for one young, cute girl.
The girl is Shiko (Cko) Kotobuki, an obnoxious young blond with a penchant for getting into trouble and making really bad food. The reason Bko does not "own" the young girl is because of Cko's best friend Aiko (Ako) Magami.
Ako is the total opposite to Bko. For what she lacks in brains, she more than makes up in superhuman speed and strength. It is her power that keeps the envious Bko at bay.
So, Bko does what any girl in her position would, she builds an army of robots to kick Ako's cute butt.
At the same time, a mysterious man has placed Ako and Cko under intense scrutiny. His mission is simple, to confirm that one of them is a princess from another world.
The truth may be stranger than fiction, but nothing is stranger than "Project Ako"!
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: Fantastic. This is ten time better than the original VHS release. The colors are vibrant and you can make out a level of detail that has never been seen before. There are no pixels, rainbows, or artifacing of any kind. Also, they have restored Ako to it's original 4:3 aspect ratio. For those of you who have the old VHS version, the "Mangarama" process was not a true animorphic transfer. It was the original 4:3, with a black bar added at the bottom.
AUDIO: The Japanese 2.0 audio has a very full bodied sound to it. There is plenty of boom for your buck as the subwoofer gets a work out during the fight sequences. During the few non-fight scenes, the sound is soft and pleasant. The only "problem" is that most of the sound is center speaker based. Also there were no real "surround sound" events worth mentioning.
On the other hand, the English audio is everything the Japanese is not. There is too much treble, not enough bass through out the entire movie. There is no surround sound, and with everything is being run through the front speakers, it sounds fuzzy.
The 2.0 commentary track is pretty standard. Yuji Moriyama's voice is in the foreground, with the Japanese audio in the back.
EDITS: None. This is exactly the way it was shown in Japan.
EXTRAS: This is one packed DVD. There are the original trailers, including a "summary reel". There is a comic to film comparison, music videos, the original "Fresh Morning" Behind the Scenes feature, fan art, and an 2001 interview with Yuji Moriyama, the animation director, character designer, and screen writer for Project Ako.
But that is not all! The DVD ROM features include an art gallery, fan art, the original script, links, and cast and crew credits. You even get the entire soundtrack on a seprate CD!
Well, this truly a hodgepodge of different elements, that shouldn't work
together, but they do. Yuji Moriyama, Tomoko Kawasaki and Katsuhiko
Nishijima managed to combine mecha anime, comedy, and Leji Matsumoto style
drama into a frantic, insane ride. A ride that takes so many twists and turns, you
will not know which way is up. If you enjoy the craziness of
"Excel Saga", you will love this.
ACTING: This is one of the few cases where I will say, ignore the English dub. The Japanese is the best and only way to watch. Despite a cast of virtual "unknowns" (at the time), each actor really plays their part to the max. Miki Ito portrayal of the "Super Amazon" Ako is right on the money. Her voice is strong and powerful, just like her character. Emi Shinohara (in her first role) has the right mix of evil and intelligence that shows that Bko is not one to be messed with. The biggest shock was Michie Tomizawa as Cko. The obnoxious and loud Cko is none other than the very sexy Linna from the Bubble Gum Crisis OVA! This woman has quite the vocal range.
FAN SERVICE: There is so much, both in panty/nudity category and in-jokes, it would take a whole web site just to list them all.
When Project Ako came out in the early 90's, it was nothing like anything people in America had seen before. It had over the top action, great looking animation, nudity, cross-dressing, and introduced us to the most obnoxious character in the history of anime (Chibi-Usa not withstanding). Little did anyone realize that this was a piece of anime history, an grand experiment in free-style animation that in today's world of limited budgets, would never have been made.
Back in the 80's when "Project Ako" was made, things were a lot more relaxed. Copyrights were not strictly enforced in Japan, and making fun of others work was okay, even with out permission. So, Yuji Moriyama, Tomoko Kawasaki and Katsuhiko Nishijima took what was supposed to be "Creamy Lemon" (soft core porn) film, and decided to go with what ever they felt like. Such a thing had never been attempted before. What company in their right mind would spend money on a movie that had no real script, story or plot!
Fortunately, Project Ako had some things going for it. First, it had producers that had no problem with spending money on something extravagant. Second, a majority of the animators and directors were up and coming stars who had worked on several successful series like "Urusei Yatsura" and "Macross: Love do you remember". Third, it touched a chord with both Otaku, and the casual fan. Those who love the "highly detailed animation" of Macross could enjoy the exciting designs of Soicho Masuo, while people who watch Harlock or UY could chuckle at the references made to their favorite shows.
Now, US Manga Corps has released this classic on DVD, and it's never looked better. The restoration is probably better than the original theatrical release, and way better than the VHS. The moviephile in me would love to have this movie in widescreen, but apparently there never was a wide screen transfer. The "Mangarama" effect on the VHS release by US Manga Corps was the full screen movie, with a black bar placed at the bottom in order to make it easier for the subtitles to be seen. However, with so many other things good about this DVD, I got over it.
Yuji Moriyama's commentary is truly an anime history lesson. You learn not only how the movie was made, but why a film like this could not be made today, "Excel Saga" not withstanding. Also, you are treated to several of the in-jokes that pepper the film. He confirms that, yes, Ako is the daughter of Wonder Woman and Superman. Yes, Bko is a lesbian, in love with Cko, and all of the people on the ship were women. So, if any of these things have piqued your interest, you need to get this movie.
Now, there are always negatives, and the English dub is fly in an otherwise perfect ointment. The actors were just plain horrible. Their delivery was quite flat, and the voices were way too "old" to make me believe they were 16 year old students. The biggest is the fact that no one can match Michie Tomizawa's Cko. Cko yells and screams, and cries in a way that only the Japanese could.
I highly recommend "Project Ako" for everyone. With it's frantic pace, superb animation, and a DVD packed full of extras, this is one film you have to own. If you don't, Bko will send giant robots over to your house to beat you up.
ŠAll information protected by DVD Vision Japan copyright unless otherwise noted.