Friday, March 31, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Black Magic M66

The first manga series by Ghost In The Shell creator Masamune Shirow was Black Magic. Originally a doujinshi, it was later printed by a mainstream publisher, and was a series of short stories all connected to a future civil war between Earth and a colonized Venus. Taking one of the single chapters from the manga and removing most of the background surrounding its continuity, a one-shot OVA was made under the title Black Magic M-66. Directed by Shirow himself along with Hiroyuki Kitakubo, the anime takes the basic premise for the manga chapter it was based on, and turns into a bizarre hybrid of 80s American action films.

Set in a somewhat idealized future, an aircraft hauling two battle androids called M66s, crashes in the woods, so the army shows up to reclaim the robots which have now been activated and gone on a killing spree. Ace reporter Sybil gets wind of this and heads to investigate. The army deactivates one of the androids, but the other escape, now with its programming shifted to killing Ferris, the teenage granddaughter of his creator. Being only one to uncover the androids target, Sybil sets out to save Ferris by stealing an "inner-city plane", and arrives at the club she's at just as the M66 discovers them both. They manage to get away briefly, but the M66 seems near unstoppable, even with help from the army. The ultimate showdown has the M66 falling off a building Hans Gruber-style, and being reclaimed by the government.

Black Magic M66 manages to mix in elements from Predator, Terminator, and Die Hard into a single OVA which runs under an hour, and was probably put together in Japan with the intent of getting more Americans interested in anime. It did succeed in this respect, at least among the earlier days of U.S. otaku during the late 80s to early 90s. The animation is acceptable for its time, especially considering it was one of the first OVAs ever made. The love for the actual manga never really caught on out in the States, except for GITS fanatics who collect all things Shirow-related. The initial North American release was by U.S. Renditions in one of their few VHS selections, and later dubbed by Manga Entertainment. It's currently also available on DVD in subtitled-only by Maiden Japan.

Monday, March 13, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A., *Oh My Goddess

Before the 2 anime TV series, or the full-length movie, Ah My Goddess received this prestige 5-episode OVA series. Originally titled "Oh My Goddess" mostly because its seemed trendier, this name-change caused quite alot of stir with the American otaku community at the time back when they were really specific about how some anime titles were labeled in English. Bubblegum Crisis director Hiroaki Godai put together this series, and subsequently all the other future Ah My Goddess anime titles. Since it was being produced around the dawn of the manga, the producers came up with their own semi-conclusion to it, but really works as far as the story goes.

Keiichi Morisato is a freshmen living in the mens dorm, when his upperclassmen leave him behind for the evening to stay and take phone messages. Being hungry, he orders for takeout, but accidentally phones the Goddess Helpline, and the goddess Belldandy(really the Norn goddess of present)appears and offers to grant Keiichi a single wish. Thinking the whole thing is a joke, he wishes for a goddess like her to stay with him forever. Belldandy then declares that the two of them will be forever bonded together, not technically in a romantic enchantment kind of way, but more like being together as a duo. However, Keiichi's roommates kick them out since a guys-only dorm, so now the couple have to find a new place to crash. Belldandy leads them to a vacant temple out of town where they magically get permission to live there. Later on, Bell's sisters Urd and Skuld move in with them too, providing their own personal brand of shenanigans to the mix. The OVA has its own personal ending though revealing a secret past between Keiichi and Belldandy as she is told she needs to go back to the heavens.

This anime was a big contender for the most beloved 90s OVAs on both sides of the ocean. American fans took to it slightly because the manga it was based on was also being released at the same time from Dark Horse, a rare occurrence at the time for a simultaneous anime + manga release of a title. The OVA had serious theatrical quality animation, and made for the first genuine release of a shoujo anime in the U.S., which give the whole market a gigantic foothold in the otaku market. Animeigo did an supreme job in the Region 1 release of this, and their dub is masterful, even though both the single volumes and collected edition are currently out of print.