#1 An all-girls superhero story
Eiko “A-Ko” Magami is a high school girl with flaming red hair and superhuman abilities. She is lightning fast, impossibly strong, and nearly indestructible to boot. She has just transferred to a new school together with her childhood friend Shiko “C-Ko” Kotobuki, where they immediately draw the attention (and ire) of the wealthy heiress Biko “B-Ko” Daitokuji. B-Ko becomes enamored with C-Ko, and comes to the conclusion that defeating A-Ko is the only way to gain her affection.
When petty bullying doesn’t do the trick, B-Ko channels her family’s resources and her own, unrivaled genius to construct enormous robots for A-Ko to battle, before finally accepting her role as a villainess and duking it out with her 1-on-1. Their conflict steadily escalates and soon erupts beyond the school, tearing up the whole of Graviton City and, after that, flowing over into an intergalactic war as the girls get caught up in an invasion of Earth.
Both A-Ko and B-Ko are enjoyable and powerful characters in their own right, and put together they make for a fantastic rivalry. Their dialogue and battles are a constantly amazing, during which both girls get ample opportunity to show off. I was especially fond of B-Ko, as she herself has superhuman abilities on top being a world-class genius and having access to the vast resources of her family. She is a fantastic antagonist.
#2 Impeccable fight animation
The Project A-Ko movies really live on their extreme action scenes. Even A-Ko and C-Ko’s daily rush to school is turned into an action scene that regularly destroys entire parts of Graviton City. The first movie is particularly aware of this strength, so the entire second half of the film is one ongoing battle that just keeps getting more and more extreme.
While it doesn’t translate well to still screenshots, the battle animation is fantastic throughout. Action is smooth and well-choreographed, with so many fantastic details that you’ll miss if you look away for even a second. The situations A-Ko gets into are also hilariously preposterous, like battles with giant mechs, or her hopping between fighter jets in the middle of a dogfight to board an alien spaceship.
I got so hyped just writing about it that I went back and just rewatched half of the first film again. It’s amazing stuff.
#3 References & Parody
Besides being a solid action anime, Project A-Ko also has a strong sense of humor to it. A lot of this comes from the over-the-top situations and quirky characters, with especially C-Ko being a lovable comedic relief. She doesn’t have any apparent superpowers, but is very childlike, hyper, and affectionate; a bit annoying at times, but generally adorable and a good anchor for her two combative friends.
Also present in abundance are references and parodies on popular anime from the 80’s, giving fans of old school anime, particularly sci-fi ones, plenty to look out for. I was especially fond of Mari, one B-Ko’s side-kicks and a fairly obvious reference to Fist of the North Star. Whenever I was sure they had done all they could with the character, they’d find some new nonsense to pull off with her.
These references may not resonate as well with younger viewers, but even for them Project A-Ko is a wacky and eccentric anime that can offer many laughs.