Sunday, March 1, 2015

Anime Review No. 96 (Agent Aika)

Agent Aika (1997 OVA, 7 episodes)
Studio Fantasia
Director: Katsuhiko Nishijima
Writers: Katsuhiko Nishijima, Kenichi Kanemaki, Katsumi Terahigashi and Noriyasu Yamauchi

Ok, so Guilty Pleasures Month 2.0 kicks off with an infamous classic of the vaulted halls of ‘90s schlocky anime, Agent Aika. Or as I would like to call it, Crotch Shot the Anime. This brilliant ‘masterpiece’ is from the mind of Katsuhito Nishijima, who is also behind Najica Blitz Tactics, Kirameki Project, Labyrinth of Flames and oddly enough Project A-Ko. Also, the lack of screenshots in this review is due to the fact that no one wants 6-12 pictures of nothing but crotch shots because who really wants that? Yeah that’s what I thought. Also spoilers because I don’t care.
Anyway, Agent Aika takes place in the far future where Earth turned into WaterWorld basically. The world is mostly underwater with small pockets of land here and there. Underwater salvaging is a prime business. Aika is one such salvager, working for some guy named ‘Boss’ and his annoying daughter Rion. She is hot 90s anime babe who is both hot, attractive and can kick ass by using a special underwear that turns her into a dark skin Amazon that can kick more ass. Anyway, Aika and Rion run afoul of a madman villain Dr. Hargen and his legion of miniskirt hottie minions and a plan involving wiping out mankind with a super weapon or something like that.

One of the big problems with Agent Aika is that there is not really much to it, not even enough for a redemptive reading. There are two stories if you can call them that: episodes 1-4 and then episodes 5-7. The first four episodes feel like their own self-contained story while the last 3 episodes feel more like a series of loosely connected one-off stories as some sort of follow up to the main story from the first four. This is seriously just plots constructed by action pieces, some pseudo-science BS and background sets glued together by fanservice and some rather troubling and bizarre content. Like did the incest really have to be here?, for instance. Like Amazing Nurse Nanako, there are a few interesting, even good ideas (a waterlogged future) but the people behind the production aren’t interested in that, but in the fanservice. However, the fanservice in Aika is so pervasive to the point where it becomes dull and tedious. I would have done a drinking game with how many fecking crotch shots the director inserts into every single fecking scene, but I would wound up in a coma. Add to that Nishijima’s tendency to linger on every crotch shot FAR longer than need be, and the show becomes so ludicrous its funny. It is also so bad its good quality in the visual presentation. Plenty of corners cut in the production just so the ‘money shots’ are extremely well-done. The OP, ED and the BG music is so 90s it hurts.

Finally, the English dub is not very good but that’s par for the course when it comes to US Manga Corps dubs for the most part. Angora Deb, who plays Aika, is the only one manages to do a consistent job in the dub and I feel that even in the bad/mediocre stuff she starred in, she does a better job than required which should be commended. However, the rest of the cast is wildly inconsistent-ranging from ok/decent to downright cringingly terrible. At times the dub manages a very OTT style with one scene in episode 3 pretty much is so terribad I couldn't help but laugh at the incompetence on display with this dub.

So yeah not really worth your time, not even for the fanservice. Which makes the second part of this review that more inexplicable…..

Aika R-16 Virgin Mission (2007 OVA, 3 episodes)
Studio Fantasia
Director: Katsuhiko Nishijima
Writer: Kenichi Kanemaki

So yeah, this exists. It is a prequel in ‘celebration’ of the original OVA’s 10th anniversary, because that seems like a good idea. I will give it this, it is a nice look into Aika as a teenage girl and salvager in training. So she apparently joins an Adventure Club run by rich girl Eri Shingai and meets a mysterious quiet cutie Karen with a butterfly on her bosom. Anyway, they go on cruise to a treasure spot for some reason that actually has a (stupid) point. But their advisor (hottie Ms Risako) turns out to be EVIL (what a twist) and has some plot involving Karen. The treasure spot site is a site tied to Karen’s past and then it gets WTF weird, even more WTF weird than the original.  

There are still a lot of crotch shots and fanservice. except its more amusing and hilarious here than in the original OVA. Luckily there is some sort of a story that is going on that actually incorporates the fanservice a bit better. Granted much of the story still is riddled with cliches and contrivances but it is there rather than not as is the case with the original OVA. It also has an awkward habit of reincorporating character elements/details that appear in the original OVA.

The production values look a lot more slick and digital, i’ll give it that. Of course the true mark of quality comes when the ED contains footage of the episode itself, yes really. Granted the whole OVA feels like a sad artifact of the 90s just looks a bit better in the visual department slightly. It is full of the same shortcuts (speed lines, obvious CG, etc) just so the Nishijima-san can focus on the ‘money shots’.

Now the English Dub is slightly better than the CPM dub for the original OVA but that’s not saying much. Its a 2008 Sam Regal-helmed Bang Zoom dub probably made on the cheap considering the quick turnaround between the initial airing of the OVA episodes in Japan and its subsequent Eng dub release and how small the cast is. Main stars include early-career Cristina Vee and Kira ‘Rina-chan’ Buckland among some other regulars of the LA scene at the time. The dub can be best described as competent, decently casted and acted but rather dull and procedural, which can best sum my feelings on modern day LA/California dubs anyway.
There is another prequel, Aika Zero, that came out in 2009 which is a mid-quel of sorts but since its not out officially I won’t talk about it. I imagine Bandai (who re-released the first OVA and then dubbed/released the prequel OVA) and hoped that it would make money so then they could then release the Aika Zero OVA here in the States. But that didn’t happen, and since Bandai is no longer in the game, I highly doubt this will get a Western release.

And what of Nishijima-san? Well he recently worked on an OVA titled Nozoki Ana, which someone on my Twitter feed was watching a few days back. Based on the screenshots it seems he is still up to his usual shtick. I suppose some old dogs can't learn new tricks. Though he has shown up working on another shows, notably as a key animator on an early episode of Kill la Kill, which is a quite interesting tie-back to the era of anime Nishijima-san was a part of.

So yeah this isn’t so much a guilty pleasure, because I don’t feel pleasure from watching it. If I want to watch something with just crotch shots, I’d just watch hentai or porn. I do feel a bit guilty in buying both of these though at a slight discount granted so I didn’t waste much money on this. Is the Aika series one of the worst? No, I have watched far worse anime that actually insult my intelligence. All that the Aika OVAs do is irk my sensibilities but only that as its not that deep or self-aware enough to read any further into it. Then again, that irking/shaking of sensibilities is what anime partly appeals to people I suppose.

Luckily, the other 2 entries this month are actual guilty pleasures and I will have more to talk about with those. Til next time dear readers.

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