Being that I am now living in New York for an unspecified period of time for an unspecified reason, I get to hang out with a bunch of the cool dudes I speak to on the internet who happen to live here. One of these cool dudes is Seiya, old Heisei Democracy contributor and frequent podcast guest. Seiya has what can only be described as a magical obsession for laser discs, and has quite a sizable collection of anime in this format. We both had a spot of free time earlier this week, so along with popping in the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam on lovely laser disc, we watched Project A-KO!
At first glance, A-KO is an over-the-top comedy bursting with energy and enthusiasm, every aspect being pushed above and beyond to stratospheric levels of absurdity. The titular A-KO is an archetypal sporty girl, but her physical strength can lay waste to houses and roads easily. B-KO is initially presented a cool antagonist, but her grudge against A-KO, and the lengths to which she’ll take it, just gets progressively more ridiculous to the point of hilarity. C-KO seems like a harmlessly cute girl, but what would otherwise be benign clumsiness and naivety is exaggerated to the point where she becomes hilariously insufferable and destructive. This kind of ridiculousness permeates across every other aspect of the show as well–one of B-KO’s henchwomen is an obvious Kenshiro parody; the girls’ homeroom teacher dresses and speaks not unlike a sleazy hostess; and the sheer scale of the SF backstory that runs throughout side A, then comes to a head in side B, is a bunch of SF anime tropes played for laughs.
However, beyond the comedy is something more. A-KO is a wonderful otaku time capsule, and revels in the obsessions of the era. It truly is a work made by that second-wave of nerds who grew up on Yamato and Harlock, but also really like girls. The film is loaded with all manner of fanservice–meticulously detailed spacecraft and launch sequences are as common as cute girls sporting hot school uniforms and flashing their panties at opportune moments. What makes these moments shine as bright as they do is amazing animation work that pulls no punches. The show is also loaded with references and in-jokes, like the aforementioned Hokuto no Ken reference. To provide another example, the main villain (voiced by Ikeda Shuuichi, natch) is a hilarious homage to Harlock, who is unable to think straight unless he is completely and totally smashed. You know, because Harlock drinks a lot.
A-KO’s not much more than jokes and fanservice, and it doesn’t really need to be anything more. It’s not so much built around a plot as it is built around a bunch of really cool scenes that the staff just wanted to do for the hell of it. There are plot threads, and there is an obvious plot that’s progressing as the film moves along, but once everything literally comes crashing down, it just stops–not really bothering to explain much in the way of hows and whys. But that’s not very important, since the show is written in such a way that you can just fill in the blanks with your otaku knowledge. And honestly, who even cares?
I hear A-KO has sequels, and these sequels may expand on these dangling plot threads. But you know what? I don’t really want that. A-KO doesn’t need that. I hear those sequels suck anyway.