This week, I am back in my comfort zone of anime OVAs from the 90s. Yeah, an area most people dread or don't know about is my comfort zone for anime. They are either interesting gems, so bad its good, or long forgotten titles.
Now, I'll explain this month's theme, which is an "Odd Notion of Genre". By this, I mean, certain series take a particular genre and adding in some quirky/weird elements to it. Last week's review was on Moretsu Pirates, essentially a space opera story with a space pirate story inserted into it. It can lend to interesting stories, for the most part.
However, this week's entry is Maze the Megaburst Space (best misnomer title ever btw) has quite honestly one of the weirdest quirks and elements in a fantasy journey story. It is an OVA from 1996, done by JC Staff and directed by Iku Suzuki. It is based off of a manga that has never gotten to the States, much less online, and that is surprising considering some of the stuff one can find online.
Now, here's how I came across this title. One of the few local video stores I go to on occasion is MovieStop. Back in like 2006 or so, I went over there to see what bargains they had. I see this on the shelf, and noticing the interesting cover and title (and the cheap price), I decided to purchase it. Now, since this OVA has only 2 episodes, which covers about 50 minutes, I consider this title to be a short film.
So, how is this an odd fantasy story? Well, it is a standard journey story with mature humor and mecha thrown in for good measure. I view it as a combo of Escaflowne and Sorcerer Hunters (with a dash of Sorcerer on the Rocks), but done on a cheaper budget. I'll explain further.
So, the plot of this OVA follows such: Maze and her crew, in their journey, come across the kingdom of Babylon, where a mad ruler is constructing a tower at the expense of his people. They seek to rectify the situation, all while dealing with other problems. Maze is the main character, a human from the present who somehow ended up in a fantasy world. Normally, she's a nice and likable character, except when at night she turns into a angry and horny man (shades of Ranma 1/2 much?). Of course, she/he can pilot a Demi-Armor (an organic mecha)
Her crew consists of people she has met off-screen prior to the OVA. They are:
Solude, a lesbian rogue
Princess Mill, annoying sidekick No.1
Aster, strong and stock standard fighter
Rapier, sheltered butch swordswoman
Woll, the wise old man
Randy, annoying sidekick No.2
All this is of course explained in an exposition dump at the start of the OVA. Now, their aim is to travel to the stronghold of the Holy Jaina Group (the baddies) for some reason. I'm guessing to find a way to get Maze home. Anyway, after fighting a group of ninja monks, they end up in the kingdom of Babylon. Randy, a fairy they meet on the way, tells them about how the ruler, Duke Den Den (ha xD), is a selfish prick who is constructing a tower at the expenses of his people, who are poorer than dirt as a result of his policies. Apparently Duke Den Den was prompted to do this by Gorgeous, a scarfaced minion to the Creator, the mysterious evil being behind the Holy Jaina Group.
So, the crew, through some perils and trials, end up foiling Duke Den Den's plan and saving the kingdom from certain doom. Sorry, no spoilers, watch it if you are really curious.
Now, some other things about this OVA. The animation is well done, even if its a little on the dated side. The character designs are very solid, though the backgrounds at times look faded. Granted, this was made in the pre-digital age of animation, so that is to be expected.
The oddities are another story. The mecha battles are far and few between (there's like 2 battles in the OVA) but done very well, all things considered. The mature humor, however, is more than really necessary but slightly tolerable if you're older. Don't show this to a youngster, that's for sure. There's mention of attempted rape, casual lesbianism, sexual harassment, nudity, and weird sex habits (Randy's brief talk on how fairies reproduce is one of the most baffling things I've heard). There is also 'referential' humor inserted in as well (the quiz show with dragon segment).
Then, there's the voice acting (in the english dub). This was released by Software Sculptors, a company associated with Central Park Media. I would say that this dub is rather 'inconsistent', in that there are some good performances brought down by clunkers. On the good side, there's Angora Deb who does a good job. I liked her in Wild Cardz and Alien 9, and also in this OVA. On the bad side, there's Princess Mill and Randy. They have the some of the worst VAs I have ever heard. It seems like the voices got processed through a synthesiser or the VA was required to ingest helium before recording. Yeah, and the extras also are rather bad. Then again, it makes my job of riffing it easier, to be sure.
Final Word: This is my guilty pleasure for me. It stands as a standard 90s OVA: cheap-looking, too short, bad voice acting, etc. Of course, its quirky/weird elements makes it stand out for me. Of course, I can understand why some people might not like this. But I like it, nonetheless. If you like fantasy anime, take a look at this one. Of course, if your are looking for some funny fantasy series, I'd recommend Sorcerer Hunters or Slayers for similar shows to this.
Next week is on Read or Die OVA. Oh joy lol ^_^