Saturday, March 16, 2013

Anime Review No. 53-Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko

"Let's Get This Party Started!"
Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko

1996-97 OVA, 6 episodes

Studios: JC Staff, Kadowa Shoten and Starchild

Based on novels by Shoji Takashi

Ok, now we are talking. Unlike last time's review of Debutante Detective Corps, this will be more substantive. Made within the next year and a half of that, comes Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko. Along with Tenamonya Voyagers (1999), this OVA also display some aspects of Akiyuki Shinbo''s style, which will be discussed further. Also, spoilers.

OVA I (March-June 1996)

Episode 1: Get Ready!

Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko tells the story of Yamamoto Yohko and her friends who get transported to the future via power of time-travel technology developed by chief engineer Lawson, to work for the Terra fleet. In this future, wars are not so much battles but more like video games (no one dies due to ejector warps and one afflicts damage much in the same way in paintball).

Team Terra consists of:
Yamamoto Yohko: reckless, very capable, headstrong, determined, confident but not cocky
Ayano: quiet, demure girl
Momoji: country bumpkin tomboy
Madoka: Lil Miss Priss with huge forehead

They engaged in competition against Team NESS Red Snappers, led by Miss Rouge and her 3 sisters, all whom are named after words based on the word 'red': Erutron (quiet dark haired girl), Lubrum (punk girl) and Lote (blond ditz). Yamamoto Yohko gets her own specialized ship TA 29, top of line spacecraft for the combat matches. She also gets egged on by tough words of Miss Rouge of the Red Snappers team, as well as her own built-in confidence in herself.

Their Opening game is taking place at the Star Prominence, which has uranium deposits. It is sort of like a drag race in space, where they run a course around the star, ending on a fuel station. However, Red Snappers are bunch of dirty players, willing to do anything to win. All this complemented by a 90s J-rock soundtrack. Team Terra seems to be in trouble, bu then Yohko flies in just in time to save her teammates from danger.

But once they get to the star, a problem occurs in that the team must orbit around the star but not too close or get caught in the star's gravity. I do have to say that there are some really stunning background visuals like solar flares and star field. Just as Yohko is planning to get to the finish, Lote (the blond ditz of the Red Snappers) destroys the goal post, which leads to some instability in the star. With little hesitance, Yohko handles the risk and finish the race on time, thereby winning the competition. End on an upbeat J-pop song, moving onto the next episode!

Episode 2: Nine Ball at Steam Rising Hot Springs

It starts off very 'meta' with a commercial of the Red Snappers promoting a holiday planet, getting a vacation deal in exchange. Yohko and Team Terra also gets a reward for all their current wins, going to the same holiday planet. When they get there, the whole planet is a hot spring called Funky Bubble for some reason that escapes me now. Now while that might seem cool, it is very impractical. The science fiction here seems plausible even if it is ridiculous beyond belief. The actual holiday planet looks like Japanese hotspring town from well any anime, pick one. With some notable exceptions, such as strip shows, arcades and a Banana and Crocodile Garden, where one can watch bananas moving and eat crocodiles like bananas. Meanwhile, the Red Snappers are enjoying arcade games and karaoke bar.
In midst of this, Lawson is trying and failing at the crane game, getting ownership rights to a planetary system. Predictably, this leads to conflict with the Red Snappers, who also want the planetary system. Rouge and Yohko engage in a crane game and a ping pong match. When word gets to the hotel executive gets word of this, he gets a brilliantly bizarre idea.

The two teams get worked into doing "Space Nine Ball", which is basically billiards in space; ships as sticks and planets as balls. Once again, this is an example of ridiculous but plausible science fiction, that's awesome. Yohko and Miss Rouge engage on an one-on-one match, which Yohko would have won had it not been for the Red Snappers' interference. Sweet Victory once again, though Lawson however didn't get the golden ball for RP 71, oh bummer for you. Next!
Episode 3: Memories of Roses

While the first two episodes have fun and exciting space adventure, the third episode takes on a more serious/dramatic tone. This episode also centers around Miss Rouge and the Red Snappers

They arrive at a space graveyard, where there is a science vessel where their mother was doing genetic experiments on roses. The ship has a micro-black hole radiator within its engine, as it was from a past era. Despite the serious tone, there are comedy moments come from Lote, the blonde ditz of the group, whose humor is very silly and relies sometimes on poorly translated wordplay (oh old 90s dubs).
However the ship is re-activated; uh-oh. Fortunately, Yohko and Team Terra are called to intercept it as the ship is direct course for Earth (an accidental Earthshock?). Meanwhile, a mystery occurs on the ship: disappearance of the roses, accidental merging with another ship, odd energy signals. Of course, the Red Snappers aren't aware of what's doing on outside, so dramatic irony will be stretched beyond belief.

Once there, Yohko and her team are stopped by the ship's defense system. The battles, like most of the OVA, are very well done, not cutting too many corners on animation. However, there is a big shock: The ship will blow up or as Lawson puts it: "There will be a very big boom." This could lead to the possible extinction of the Earth, oh noes. Luckily, the two groups finally get in touch with each other. After some initial misunderstanding and Rouge's reluctance to leave, Yohko once again saves the day with her special weapon ya-woo! A visually poignant ending as Yohko rescues the Red Snappers and the ship explode, leaving space with a nice tasteful stain of red.

OVA II (August-December 1997)

The Opening Song seems very like the ending song for Tenamonya Voyagers, leaving one with the impression that this is a Space Western, which this certainly isn't. Anyway, onto the second OVA, which does pick up after the events of OVA I. Suffice to say, anyone who watches this should both OVAs. Now, onto the episodes!
Episode 4: Summer Challenger

So, Yohko and her friends are back in the present, about to enjoy their summer vacation. Then engage in typical summer activities: Water Park, Eating Ice Cream, Basketball Match, Photo Booth, Toy Store, etc. But someone is watching Yohko from afar, causing some near accidents which Yohko avoids through sheer power of insight.

In the future, NESS and Terra fleets are dealing with an issue. Mr Fuligar, commander of the NESS fleet is introduced and Miss Rouge has a crush on him. It turns out someone has gone rogue and stolen a LS ship and teleported to the past using Lawson's teleport system. One would think that these organizations would have more security than just a singular guard, if that was the case.

Next day, Yohko is woken up by the mysterious stalker. Except there's an issue: a spaceship has appeared in the sky over the Earth. The mysterious stalker reveals herself to be Sylvie Dread. She challenges Yohko to a duel in orbit. If not, Sylvie plans to smash Tokyo to a pancake, as expected of villains like this.
As Yohko prepares for he duel, Lawson gives Yohko some exposition information. Sylvie Dread is a former pilot of Terra who is kind of a bitch, with some personality problems. Yohko replaced her as pilot for the TA 29, naturally that left Sylvie very jealous and angry. Good thing he delivered Yohko and her friends' ships into the present time period, though at different locations.

Yohko goes alone to fight Sylvie in the duel, as that's the honorable though probably based on her gaming experience. Fight is very gripping and exciting, all things considered. It comes down to the wire at one moment, it's so tense. However, the fight ends as Mr. Fuligar intervenes and captures Sylvie. It's at this point that Mr. Fuligar gets some character, as a strong, noble commander who admires Yohko's abilities as a enemy pilot. Cue end credits.
Episode 5: Nightmare of Legends

Yohko, Momoji, Ayano and Madoka along with Lote (dumb Red Snapper) get stuck on a planet
where the inhabitants (monk trio) treated as goddesses until they are taken as sacrifices to revive their ancient sleeping god, Pushuke. It is more or less like a Haunted House/Mystery Adventure, with the end of it being proper sci-fi again. This episode I like as it is the closest to anything in terms of modern Shinbo. Features like odd color/lighting schemes, unsettling and surreal atmosphere and weird camera angles/perspective pervade this episode. There is also a sub-plot involving the two fleets searching for them, while the NESS fleet recruiting Sylvie Dread to their side. This leads into the final episode.
Episode 6: Cinderella of the Cherry Blossom Moonlight

Sylvie Dread prepares for a rematch against Yohko once more. But there is a party with Cherry Blossoms cohosted by Terra and NESS to be had and only one team member can go to the party. For team NESS, Miss Rouge is glaming it up for the party as she plans to capture Mr Fuligar's heart. For team Terra, Yohko herself ends up going to the party, with the other girls acting as security They arrive at the Cherry Blossom Ring which I have to say is a very nice visual treat.

The party begins in earnest. Lawson dances with Admiral Rion (hot tanned beauty commander) while Rouge is seeking out Mr Fuligar. Yohko shows up in a blonde wig and nice dress, captivating Mr Fuligar on the spot. This party part is an echo of Cinderella of sorts. Yohko and Mr Fuligar dance together, much to Rouge's frustration.
However, Sylvie Dread breaks through security in order to crash the party it seems. At this point she is just one psychotic bitch. So, Yohko and Sylvie engage in a rematch. One thing I've noticed while watching this is how trope-aware (games and scifi tropes) this show is, and this final fight is no exception. It is an awesome fight, well done in action and intensity. However, it ends in a stalemate as Yohko views it no longer as a game, therefore not fun. Sylvie leaves promising to return again at some point. The OVA ends on an open note to say the least.

This OVA, along with Tenamonya Voyagers, I can wholeheartedly recommend. Akiyuki Shinbo makes these fun and enjoyable, and at the end of the day having some entertainment value is enough for me when it comes to anime. Yamamoto Yohko is a very good piece of comical scifi 90s OVA in its own right. Granted, a TV series for this was made but it has not made it state-side, doubt it ever will. But the OVA is sufficient for those interested.
Next review will be out on March 30th See y'all then!

The Eclectic Dude

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