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Anime: Original Animation Videos (OAVs)
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Made for video releases

Ushio and Tora

Ushio is a relatively ordinary high school boy (with a rather big mouth) in training to become a priest. Things are complicated one day when he discovers a demon in his basement, pinned to a rock by a magic spear (the "beast spear"). Unfortunately, it develops that in opening the room where Tora (the name Ushio gives the demon) is imprisoned, Ushio has attracted a wide variety of unpleasant supernatural characters, and the only one around who can chase them away is—of course—Tora.

Tora, however, has other plans, and foremost among them is eating Ushio, who is a descendent of the original warrior that imprisoned him. Ushio is safe only as long as he keeps the beast spear handy. In spite of these conflicting agendas, the two eventually develop a remarkable friendship, and Ushio turns out to be a much more complex and sensitive person than he first appears.

One warning: because this series features many traditional demons and other unpleasant beings from Japanese folklore, the violence and gore level can get quite high at times (imagine Legend of Sleepy Hollow meets Nightmare on Elm Street). A superb series, but not recommended for small children or the faint of heart.
Rating:



Oh! My Goddess (also known as Ah! My Goddess)

Now here is a series which really, truly, shouldn't work. The characters are just too sweet and lovable to be real, the music is unrelentingly beautiful, and nobody dies, is torn apart by mecha, or devoured by fiends from the underworld. The word saccharine should come to mind. But it does work, and spectacularly. This just has to be the most gorgeous thing ever put on cels. (The two original soundtrack albums are also priceless gems for the J-Pop enthusiast.)

In case you don't know the story, Keichi, a "nice-guy" college student (and a bit of a "wimp," if you don't like nice guys), dials out for pizza while answering the phone for his absent dorm mates, and accidentally gets the Goddess Hotline instead. Before he can say "oops," the goddess Belldandy has arrived to take charge of his life (of course, since he isn't allowed to have women in the dorm, the first thing she does is inadvertantly get him kicked out of his housing). From there things move along at a gentle pace, but behind the scenes events are building towards an unexpectedly powerful climax.

Since the original OAVs appeared, this manga series has spawned a movie and two television seasons to date. Its appeal has not diminished with time.

Incidentally, this series has spawned the winner of my Least Significant Anime Issue Of The Decade Award, the endless argument over whether it should be called Ah! My Goddess or Oh! My Goddess (the former being a more accurate translation of the Japanese manga's title, the latter being the U.S. distributor's preference). Don't bring this up on anime newsgroups, if you know what's good for you.
Rating:



All-Purpose Cultural Cat-Girl Nuku-Nuku

Picture this opening sequence: a distinctly unbalanced scientist is on the run from his vengeful wife (head of an armaments firm, naturally) with their son. In the back seat is a stolen android. Minions of the wife pursue the two in a military aircraft, in the process accidentally killing the child's newly-adopted cat. The father's brilliant idea? Implant the cat's brain in the android. Sounds like it has all the makings of a good old-fashioned Frankenstein horror flick, doesn't it?

Guess again. One of the looniest, most hilarious pieces of anime ever produced, this should leave all but the brain-dead helpless with laughter again and again. The android, now named Nuku-Nuku, has been reformed into the image of a purple-haired high school student with a charmingly innocent personality (in fact, she's probably the only sane member of the family). As usual, expect massive collateral destruction. The U.S. distributor's slogan for the series probably says it best: Nine lives. Nine hundred horsepower. Need I say more?
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Iria: Zeiram the Animation

The unusual title for this series is due to the fact that it is in effect a "prequel" to a live-action film (Zeiram). The plot is straightforward: a young bounty hunter (Iria) seeks revenge when her older brother Gren is killed by a genetically engineered monster (Zeiram). The lead character is exceptionally appealing, particularly when she proves to be in way over her head. The animation is excellent, and the art work downright stunning (many of the futuristic high tech machines have been designed to remind one of classic Japanese prints). This is one you should ideally watch in one sitting, in spite of the division into 6 episodes.

Incidentally, the DVD release of this OAV is a major bargain. Originally issued in Japan as six separate laserdiscs (selling here for $50 to $70 each) and in the U.S. as three full-price tapes with two episodes each, the DVD contains all six episodes for less than the cost of a laserdisc. And the transfer is stunning.



Dominion: Tank Police

Loosely based on a popular manga by Shirow Masumirow (Ghost in the Shell), the best description I've seen for this series can be summed up as "this-can't-possibly-be-good-for-me-but-I'm-laughing-anyways." Political correctness finds no home here, where "grenade golf" is the favored technique for interrogating suspects, the "evil" Puma Sisters (Anna and Uni) show more skin than skill, and the heroine's main squeeze is her mini-tank, Bonaparte. Set in a future where crime is utterly out of control, the last line of defense for the overtaxed police is the Tank Police, who have an alarming tendency to come up with innovative methods (usually involving the customary massive property destruction) for crime fighting. It's a real hoot but with unexpectedly poignant overtones near the end. (Be forewarned: strong language is present.)

A second OAV series (known in the U.S. as New Dominion Tank Police) was somewhat disappointing, though still entertaining. A relatively routine effort, it lacked the characterizations and deeper resonances of the first.
Rating: Dominion: Tank Police ; New Dominion Tank Police


Copyrights

Ushio and Tora Copyright Fukita/Shogakukan/Toho Video/Toshiba EMI/OB Planning. Released in North America by A.D. Vision * Oh, My Goddess! Copyright Kosuke Fujishima/Kodansha/TBS/SS Films. Released in North America through AnimEigo * All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (Bannou Bunka Nekomusume) Copyright Movic/King Records/Yuzo Takada/Futabasha. Released in North America by A.D. Vision * Iria: Zeiram the Animation Copyright Crowd/Bandai Visual/Mitsubishi Corporation/Banpresto. Released in the United States through U.S. Manga Corps * Dominion: Tank Police Copyright Masamune Shirow/Seishinsha/Plex. Exclusively licensed in the United States & Canada by Manga Entertainment


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This page last updated 2/5/2010.