Project A-ko

Tagged: Film

Japanese animated film (1986). A.P.P.P., Soeishinsha. Directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima. Written by Katsuhiko Nishijima, Tomoko Kawasaki, Yuji Moriyama. Voice cast includes Shūichi Ikeda, Miki Itō, Emi Shinohara and Michie Tomizawa. 84 minutes. Colour.

Sixteen year-old A-ko Magami (Itō) and best friend C-ko Kotobuki (Tomizawa) attend school in Graviton City; which, after an apparent meteor strike sixteen years ago, has been rebuilt to become the "hi-tech capitol of the world". A-ko is super strong and fast (it is implied her parents are Superman and Wonder Woman); C-ko adores A-ko but has drawn the romantic attentions of spoilt but talented heiress B-ko Daitokuji (Shinohara). B-ko tries to split the pair, daily creating Mechas that battle and lose to A-ko. Enraged by her failure and what she sees as A-ko's adoption of the Hero role, B-ko declares she accepts being the Villain, dresses in a Powered Armour bikini and attacks A-ko: a prolonged fight starts in the school but soon moves to the city, with considerable property damage.

Meanwhile, alcoholic Alien Captain Napolipolita (Ikeda) recognizes C-ko as her planet's missing princess (it wasn't a meteor but a Spaceship carrying C-ko that hit Graviton City) and comes to reclaim her. Earth's military interprets her spaceship's approach as an Invasion and attacks: their battle moves from space into the city, where giant spider robots fight Earth's tanks. Initially indifferent, A-ko and B-ko pay attention when C-ko is abducted by Napolipolita, managing to rescue her just before the ship crashes onto the city's central spire. The final scene has A-ko and C-ko returning to school, where B-ko awaits – everything is back to normal, save for the impaled ship now being part of the cityscape, and its impoverished captain and crew reduced to begging.

An affectionate Satire of the Clichés and stereotypes of the era's sf Anime – "A-ko" means "Girl A" etc. – with references to Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979); Fist of the North Star (1984-1987; original title Hokuto no Ken); Genma Taisen (1983; vt Harmagedon) (see Kazumasa Hirai); Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel (1983-1984; original title Mahō no Tenshi Kurīmī Mami), Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-1980), Space Battleship Yamato (see Uchū Senkan Yamato), Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982-1983) and many others. It was one of the first anime films to be given a commercial release in the USA: thus many Americans' first experience of anime was a send-up or Parody of the genre. Time has weakened the satire, but the film is still lively, silly and fun – with A-ko lobbing tanks and reaching Napolipolita's ship by running on the missiles targeting it. Less charming is a fixation on schoolgirl underwear; it would be overly generous to excuse this as part of the satire (see Fan Service).

Sequel films followed: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group (1987, original title Project A-ko 2: Daitokuji Zaibatsu no Inbou); Cinderella Rhapsody (1988) and FINAL (1989, original title Project A-ko: Kanketsuron); then a two-part OVA, Project A-Ko: Uncivil Wars (1990, original title A-Ko The VS; vt Project A-ko Vs. Grey Side/Blue Side; vt A-ko the Versus), an Alternate History featuring the main characters. [SP]

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