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.

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