A mid-80s parody of other popular anime, Project A-ko sees the superhumanly gifted A-ko and her extraordinarily wealthy class rival B-ko fight over the friendship of the crybaby C-ko. Targets of the movies parodies include classics like Captain Harlock and Fist of the Northstar.
An alien spaceship crashes on Graviton City. Nobody clears it away, people get used to it being there, and gradually the district is rebuilt on an island around the hulk. Years later, two new girls arrive in class-late, as they always will be-at the Graviton Institute for Girls. Eiko ("A-Ko") Magami is a normal Japanese schoolgirl hero, apart from superstrength and superspeed inherited from superparents who are only revealed at the end of the film-one of its many in-jokes. She's cheerful, loyal, and always tries her best. Her best friend, C-Ko Kotobuki, is very, very stupid but so unbelievably cute that she reawakens an intense crush in rich, clever, and beautiful B-Ko Daitokuji. B-Ko decides that she'll break up the friendship between A-Ko and C-Ko, and then C-Ko will be her best friend.
Starting out looking like just another girls' school story in the tradition of Twins at St. Clare's, PA was actually named after Jackie Chan's Project A (1984), and the inspiration of the master of slapstick martial-arts mayhem is obvious. The film pokes fun at such anime staples as the heroic Captain Harlock, here transformed into a cross-dressing dipsomaniac, and the alien-princess-school-love-triangle so successful in Urusei Yatsura, as well as throwing in foreign jokes like the rotund American fast-food icon Colonel Sanders, in a parody of a scene from Harmagedon depicting a terrifying warrior emerging from a dark alley toward the hero. (Kentucky Fried Chicken had just opened its franchise in Japan and the lifesize statue of the colonel outside every restaurant became a target for comedians for years-see Junk Boy.) C-Ko isn't what she seems-she is really the princess of a lost alien civilization, and the captain was coming to find her when he accidentally crashed his ship.
In the video sequel PA2: The Plot of the Daitokuji Corporation (1987), directed by Moriyama from Koyama's script, B-Ko's millionaire industrialist father, from whom she inherited all her least charming characteristics, is plotting to acquire the alien technology for his own ends, but he reckons without his daughter's determination to win C-Ko's affection or A-Ko's loyalty to her annoying little friend. The pair unite to stop the aliens taking C-Ko home. Moriyama also directed the Kawasaki-scripted video PA3: Cinderella Rhapsody (1988), about an unusual love quadrangle forming when A-Ko and B-Ko fall for Kei, who loves C-Ko, who can't stand him because he's taking A-Ko's attention away from her. The whole thing culminates in a huge party on the crashed battlecruiser, which the captain and his crew have converted into the best disco in town. Opening and closing sequences have stunning artwork by Yasuomi Umezu, and the ending reassures us that men come and go, but friends are always friends. Moriyama and Kawasaki teamed up again for Project A-Ko: Final (1989, aka PA4), in which Kei's matrimonial negotiations with the girls' teacher, C-Ko's origins as an alien princess, and the captain's continuing failure to complete his mission culminate in the arrival of C-Ko's mother in a spaceship modeled on a George Lucas Star Destroyer. But the world's cutest bubble-brain doesn't go home after all, and the video ends, as the first movie began, with our heroines late for school again.
Final wasn't so final after all. A video two-parter, A-Ko the Versus (1990, aka PA5), took our heroines into an alternate universe to reprise their story with a new twist and new oppo-nents but still the same theme-rivalries, friendships, love, and massive rumbles with bigger collateral damage than most medium-sized wars.
Nishijima and Moriyama (also known as Cream Lemon's Yuji Motoyama) wrote the story for PA with Kasumi Shirasaka reputedly as a pitch for the soft-core franchise, mercifully dropped. Allowed to flourish as comedy instead of erotica, PA throws in parodies of and references to just about every area of popular Japanese and American youth culture. Just like its pornographic precursor, PA is cunningly telling the same story with the same ingredients, spinning it just enough to hold the audience's attention. The team added two saving graces: good comic timing and a complete failure to comprehend the meaning of the word "excess." The whole canon-especially the first film and Cinderella Rhapsody-is still watchable, whether you have seen enough anime to get the in-jokes or just enjoy comedy that goes completely over the top. Nishijima would reprise the character relationships for the 1990s in the less successful Agent Aika.
|Eiko Magami ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Shiiko Kotobuki ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Biko Daitokuji ( x ) ( x ) ( x )||
|Katsuhiko Nishijima||Director||Director and animator.|
|Yuji Moriyama||Character Artist/Designer||Animator.|
|Release Date:||Jan. 1, 1986|
|Release Date:||June 21, 1986|
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