Venus Project -Climax-
6 episodes (23 minutes)
Based on a Vita game of all things, Venus Project is an idol anime crossed with a mecha action series. Using augmented reality technology, idols engage in competitions where they sing and dance, while giant robots represent their struggle as a real battle.
As a young orphan, Eriko Hara became inspired to become an idol after witnessing one such fight on TV. Now a teenager, she is ready to compete in the big Formula Venus competition for the second time in her career. While Eriko hopes that the competition will bring her one step closer to her dreams, she has unwittingly made an enemy out of Ruka Sovagasky, a visiting idol from the Russian-speaking nation of Pooristan. Ruka was about to set a new record when her streak of victories was broken by Eriko in her debut performance. A lot is on the line for Ruka and things could get ugly if the two are ever to face off in a competition again.
Venus Project has a fantastic concept and it benefits from its wonderful characters. Eriko, Ruka, and several other idols were all lovable, with good backstories that make it easy to root for them in the competition. The songs and performances are also quite nice, and the robot battles that accompany them are hilariously cheesy, yet still well-choreographed. However, these sequences are also very short, meaning most of any given episode is build-up and character development. I enjoyed those aspects of the show myself, though I could see how somebody more interested in the performances or robot battles will be disappointed by their scarcity.
Either 2 episodes (35 minutes) OR 28 episodes (3 minutes)
After moving to Tokyo from the distant countryside, Yurume Aida has big dreams of starting a new life and making it into university. These lofty ambitions are immediately shattered when her fancy-sounding apartment complex turns out to be a dump that she must share with 3 bizarre strangers. She is quickly dragged along in the layabout lifestyles of her housemates, and all hope of her ever making it into uni begin to vanish.
Yurumates is basically Hidamari Sketch wherein every character is an unemployed idiot. Perpetually broke, usually drunk, and utterly hopeless, the story of Yurume and her friends makes for an interesting slice-of-life series, because their lives are utterly stagnant. Their problems, mostly relating to their poverty, are largely self-inflicted, and most will find it hard to sympathize with characters who are this workshy and foolish.
The anime is based on a 4-panel manga and that’s definitely noticeable. The jokes flow quickly and the character development is kept to a minimum, making this excellent entertainment if you are looking for some light comedy. The artstyle is also pleasantly simplistic, though you have a choice there. The TV shorts (Yurumates 3D) have improved visuals and slightly more content, whereas I felt that the characters worked a little better in the original 2-episode OVA. You can optionally watch both as they have some unique sketches each, but you’ll also have some repeated segments to work through.
1 episode (45 minutes)
There isn’t too much to say about Early Reins. It’s a short OVA set in the Wild West, about a train robbery gone horribly wrong. When a band of outlaws seizes control of the train and all the men are kicked off, it falls upon 6 young women to take up arms and fight off their captors.
The characters are all recognizable archetypes from the Wild West that see some mild development throughout the story, but Early Reins is mostly concerned with action. Its single episode has several back-to-back battles with brief interludes, during which the heroines shine through their actions rather than their depth of character. Regrettably, this anime was seemingly relegated to a B-team at OLM, leading to action scenes that don’t always feel as polished as they could have been. It’s not bad constantly by any means, it’s even quite impressive at times, but some moments that could have become highlights were held back by awkward directing or janky animation.
Still, I very much enjoyed this anime take on the Wild West, which isn’t a setting we get to visit often. The show’s sense of style is impeccable and it’s a fantastic fit with the OVA’s English dub. The story and characters are also quite enjoyable, so I can recommend checking it out if you’re in the mood for some Old West gunslinging fun.
Fighting Fairy Girl Rescue Me: Mave-Chan
1 episode (23 minutes)
When the anxiety-ridden anime nerd Rei Sugiyama takes a wrong turn at an anime con, he suddenly finds himself in a fantasy world that is a literal otaku dream. Giant robots, sexy women, constant action, this world has it all. However, dreams have a habit of ending, and Rei is soon horrified to learn that the world is literally falling apart and his newfound friends are all facing a cruel, lonely demise.
Though initially appearing like a wish fulfillment story, Fighting Fairy Girl is really about the meta-narrative of an endless race to appease the anime fandom. The world Rei finds himself in is actively shaped and altered by the collective interest of people who love anime, but this means it is routinely destroyed and its characters erased as new fascinations emerge. The OVA throws shade at otaku culture, how it completely falls in love with characters and tropes, while also being so fickle as to discard these obsessions the moment something new comes around. In that sense, the central message of this anime has survived the test of time well and still holds much relevance today, even if its character archetypes have (ironically) faded from relevance.
Its visuals have also aged well and the short runtime actually ends up feeling like a perfect fit for the story. It’s a thought-provoking and action-filled romp that is exactly long enough to make its point and then ends gracefully without a second ever feeling wasted. I liked it a lot and would recommend it to anybody who’s been on the side-lines of anime waifu wars or who is sufficiently cynical about the seasonal obsessions of the anime community.
12 episodes (13 minutes)
After being roped into helping a friend sell hentai Doujinshi at a nearby convention, Najime Osana concludes that she could earn a fortune by taking up the same business. Her logic isn’t entirely off, but fails to account for the fact that she has no artistic skills whatsoever and knows nothing about hentai.
Doujin Work is a fun little series chronicling Najime’s desperate attempt to break through as an artist, with results that are about what you’d expect. Though she receives help from her friends Tsuyuri and “Justice”, and soon finds a die-hard fan in the handsome otaku Hoshi, her work is largely met with ridicule. The series’ comedy is surprisingly tame considering it’s about hentai, which suits me just fine. It’s quite accessible stuff and sometimes even cute, such as with a running gag concerning Justice’s underage companion who isn’t allowed to see any of the books that she helps sell.
A nice touch is how you actually witness Najime’s work improve over time and Doujin Work is full of similar visual details. I was particularly fond of a number of scenes that are framed as manga pages with voice-over, or how the armies of background lads are all colored in and relatively detailed, turning the crowds at the frequent anime conventions into colorful mosaics of people. These and other touches are certainly cost-saving measures, but creativity and strong directing manage to turn these into novel features.
All-around, this is a fun and well-made comedy series that will be particularly appealing to fans of Animation Runner Kuromi, Shirobako, and other behind-the-scenes style anime/manga.
2 episodes (30 minutes)
Prayers is just sad. Intended to be a 4 episode OVA before being cancelled halfway through, it’s an ambitious anime that collapses under the weight of its dozens of ideas. In the end it’s just a stumbling mess, unable to realize any of its many concepts.
The main idea for the story is almost hilarious in how desperately it wants to be cool and edgy: In the dystopian, independent city-state of Shibuya, most of the population are teenagers and young adults, and their main entertainment are so-called “Prayer Battles”. Two bands face off against each other and their music causes literal brain damage to the opponent, with most battles ending in death as entire lobes are destroyed. Why do people sign up for this? Why aren’t regular concerts cool enough? Where are they getting this technology? Why does the audience care about a death battle when they can’t even see the people dying? How did teenagers declare independence from Japan? Valid questions, but don’t hold out any hope for seeing them answered.
The story is centered around Tasuku, a young Prayer who prides himself on never having killed anybody. When he finds a new partner in the amnesiac beauty Shouko and begins developing feelings for her, he is shocked when she then begins murdering her way through the competition. This already thin storyline is then diluted further by the show’s many substories. There is an evil doomsday cult, a corrupt peacekeeping force, constant references to Shouko’s ambigious background story, strange monsters prowling the streets, themes of drug abuse, a mystery surrounding an old phone that Tasuku desperately protects, none of which ever feels particularly interesting.
Even when you put aside that the show was canceled, the story jumps around between too many different threads without ever giving the audience a reason to care about any of them, and many just don’t make any kind of logical sense to begin with. I did end up enjoying the OVA’s symphonic rock soundtrack, its one saving grace, but this is as objectively a waste of time as you can get.
16 episodes (5 minutes)
Saji is sexual harassment personified. A horny teenager with no concept of shame, he spends his days fantasizing about the women in his life, masturbating, prowling around for a glimpse of some panties, or looking for excuses to grope and fondle his classmates.
He one day sets his sights on the blue-haired, pint-sized beauty Akira Koizumi, a girl renowned for her disdain for men. This lasts all of 3 episodes before she acquiesces and just becomes a generic tsundere girlfriend. Iketeru Futari is as shallow as they come: a pandering ecchi comedy about a guy with 0 redeeming values who still gets the girl of his dreams and can even cheat a bit on the side without ever incurring more than a comedic beating.
It’s morally reprehensible and largely poor in quality, but it does have some better episodes in there with hilarious storylines. The OP is also criminally good and utterly wasted on such an obscure, below-average anime.
3 episodes (30 minutes)
Cleopatra is the chairman of the mega-conglomerate Corns DC, but she has little interest in running her business. Instead, she would much rather travel the world to help people in need and fight for what she feels is right, even if that means putting her life and billions of dollars at risk.
Cleo is such a cool character and she alone makes this an anime worth seeing for anybody with an interest in shows with powerful female characters. She is compassionate and charming, not to mention beautiful, but also a capable adventurer. She fights mercenaries and other goons, she has impeccable instinct, a keen sense for business, and she is intelligent enough to outwit evil businessmen and plotting villains at every turn.
This 3 episode OVA chronicles a few of her adventures and nicely appeals to both male and female viewers. The artstyle and character design are very much in shoujo fashion, but it also sports plenty of action and some milder fan-service shots. The story is also a lot of fun, with the final (extra long) episode concluding the series at its peak.
1 episode (27 episodes)
Well that was certainly a thing. Vassalord. is the story of two vampires, a laid-back dude living a wealthy life in a mansion, and an agent for The Vatican who was created by him long ago. The two don’t exactly see eye-to-eye, but they also kinda do. It doesn’t really seem to matter.
The OVA tries to court a BL audience and the opening segment appears to shoot for a familiar setup where two mortal enemies are secretly really into each other. This leads to a cool battle to open the anime on and raise expectations, but Vassalord. just kinda moves on to a wholly different storyline immediately after, discarding the tension between the two entirely and revealing that they are just chill together. From there, the OVA doesn’t really go anywhere interesting anymore until concluding on one more quick battle.
Perhaps time constraints got in the way, because the whole thing just feels rushed and unoptimized. Cool when it works out, but a shame that it rarely does. The original light novel is 7 volumes and by the same creator who made the sci-fi military drama Ilegenes, so those interested in the cool characters, or homo-erotic vampires in general, may find more fun in checking out this source material.
Belladonna of Sadness
1 movie (89 minutes)
3 years after the catastrophic failure of Tezuka’s erotic art film Cleopatra: Queen of Sex, Mushi Productions revisited the idea with Belladonna of Sadness, which went on to become a critical masterpiece. Tezuka was not involved in this film at all and, as a critic of the man, that amuses me greatly.
The story concerns French peasants Jeanne and Jean, who are about to be happily married. However, Jeanne (the woman) is then violently raped by the local baron and all of his courtiers, spiraling the life of the young couple out of control. Things become even weirder when Jeanne is then approached by a spirit in her dreams, promising he’ll help her out… for a price.
It’s a cruel, devastating story with a lot of power to it and which doesn’t really fit the traditional label of anime. Much of the story is presented in beautiful watercolor paintings with voice-over, mixed with a rare few animated portions and musical segments. Depictions of sex stradle the line between literal and symbolic, which allows the story to be confrontational without becoming fetishistic about it. It’s not erotic in the pleasurable sense, rather it uses erotica to tell a brutal story about a young woman whose one chance at happiness was unjustly taken from her.
Still, since it has basically nothing in common with anime as we know it, it’s exclusively intended for those who have an interesting in animation as art. The second portion of the film does also feel noticeably weaker, with some blatant padding as it starts using “comedic” animation montages that are just random nonsense. It still works towards a satisfying conclusion with a few highlights throughout, but a full 10 minutes could easily been cut out without losing much of anything.
Hentai Bonus: Shocking Pink Girl Momoko
Momoko Morita fancies herself the Marilyn Monroe of Japan, but in actuality she is a failed actress working part-time jobs to make ends meet. After getting fired once again, she manages to seduce (and guilt-trip) hapless salaryman Kentaro into letting her move in with him. Problem #1: He was drunk at the time and doesn’t remember promising at all. Problem #2: Kentaro is engaged to the daughter of his boss.
Shocking Pink Girl Momoko makes for a comedic romance story where the girl is entirely in charge. Momoko does whatever she wants and she is very open about sex, causing quite a commotion when Kentaro’s geeky roommate has to cope with a half-naked babe wandering around their living room all day. It does leave you questioning if she really cares about Kentaro or if she is just manipulating him for her benefit, especially when she decides to apply for a job at his office where encounters with his actual fiancee are inevitable.
A great central character and a comedic story, but the show is held back by its cheap-looking animation. Most notably. backgrounds are a commodity that you shouldn’t take for granted and character’s faces are frequently messed up, among other minor issues. The sex scenes are dated by today’s standards and heavily censored, though often in artsy ways and they are quite nice. They are brief and intimate, making them feel like a consequence of the relationship between Kentaro and Momoko, rather than fetishistic obligation because this is hentai and ‘more sex = more sales’.