The past month has been quite a ride for me as an anime fan. I attended my first live convention in ages, I watched the finale of one of my favorite franchises ever, and I stumbled into my most popular tweet in a very, very long time.
I’ll definitely be watching the second G-Reco movie next month, so watch out for that review!
Meanwhile, I’d also like to thank the following Patreon sponsors for their continued support:
Sue Hopkins fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
Blog highlights from August:
I actually think I posted some of my best work in a while, so I recommend readers check out everything this month, but if you only have a little time, these are probably the best.
In terms of setup and interesting storytelling, I thinkLove Live! Superstar!! might be the best the franchise has to offer.
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a funny thing with my blog stats.
Throughout 2020, I received many more hits than I have over recent years. This trend started to subside around spring this year (when the vaccine rollout started getting some steam), but now over the past couple months as the delta variant ravages the US (where most of my visitors come from), I’m seeing an uptick in blog views again. As much as I like having more people read my stuff, I’d rather everyone be alive.
Go get vaccinated and wear a mask in public and when around others. Stay safe, and I wish you all good health.
Project A-ko is an indelible part of my anime fandom. As a young nerd in the 1990s eager for more information about this newfangled “Japanese animation,” I ran into it everywhere. The super strong A-ko, the technologically savvy B-ko, and the crybaby C-ko defined anime itself, and their antics were the stuff of legends. What fan didn’t recognize them?
But while I “knew” Project A-ko, I never actually watched it. Less a secret shame and more an ongoing omission, this representative gateway anime of those early days just never crossed my path–that is, until Otakon 2021.
A Brief History of Restoration
In 2019, Discotek Media announced that they were releasing a blu ray edition of Project A–ko, and what began as a state-of-the-art transfer from laser disc eventually gave way to the discovery of an original 35mm film master long thought most to the aether. Fast forward a couple years and a pandemic, and Discotek brought the first showing of the remastered Project A-ko to Otakon attendees. What better way to experience this missing piece of my history?
And so I sat in among a crowded audience, a near-even split of longtime ProjectA-ko fans and newcomers. Because of my exposure and cultural osmosis, I knew too much to pretend like I was viewing it in a vacuum or with a blank slate. I had read the fanfics, I had seen the websites on Anime Web Turnpike. Now, it was my time to bridge that gap between hearing everyone else’s opinions on Project A-ko and establishing my own.
Transfer students A-ko and C-ko are best of friends (or something more). Graviton High’s queen, B-ko, wants C-ko for herself, and she’ll do anything to tear the two friends apart. However, A-ko is superhumanly strong, and neither deception nor giant robots can stop her. Though not immediately obvious, the film was originally meant to be part of the Cream Lemon erotic OVA series before spinning off into its own thing.
The premise of Project A-ko is less a central driving narrative and more of an excuse. It’s a canvas upon which the creators display all manner of gorgeous and lovingly rendered animation ranging from slapstick to tense hand-to-hand combat to fanservice nudity to science fiction set pieces that could impress Moebius. In terms of technical and artistic perspectives, Project A-ko stands the test of time. In terms of artistic indulgence, it stands near the top.
I think how much you like Project A-ko truly boils down to how much you love animation for animation’s sake, how much the excitement and titillation of its myriad spectacles draws you in, and how much you can tolerate a paper-thin plot. I found myself somewhere in the middle, blown away by the sheer beauty of it all, but feeling the drag of nothing to truly anchor it, my attention started to drift halfway through. Yet, now knowing what Project A-ko is like now, it shines a whole new light on the fandom I remember from over 20 years ago.
Hindsight Is Hilarious
Project A-ko is comedy and satire, and I think that much is obvious if you’ve been exposed to plenty of anime. But while watching the interactions between the three core characters, I couldn’t help but recall the kinds of series-related discussions I would see as a young anime fan. Chief among them was the recurring hate lobbed at C-ko, with viewers frustrated that both the cute and feisty A-ko and the beautiful and elegant B-ko would devote so much attention to a loud, whiny, blond gremlin who seems like the worst kind of shoujo heroine. But in the wise words of McBain doing stand-up: that’s the joke.
C-ko is supposed to be obnoxiously innocent, from her shrill voice to her garbage-dump lunches she eagerly makes for A-ko. The way the haughty B-ko stares longingly at C-ko when the latter is at her loudest adds to the absurdity of their interactions. And unlike Mineta in My Hero Academia, who some fans find so annoying that the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own has a tag to indicate the removal of Mineta (and any traces of his history) from MHA, C-ko isn’t just some comedic side character. C-ko is essential to Project A-ko.
But I’m aware of the fact that Project A-ko hit the Western anime audience at a very particular time when there just wasn’t much anime available. Fans at the time took Project A-ko at face value, and it took the discourse around the movie in a certain direction that’s fascinating in hindsight. It’s possible I would have fallen into this trap myself—If I had watched Project A-ko back in the 1990s, I most definitely would not have understood that their class teacher is literally Creamy Mami, for example. In other words, “If a work of satire comes out in an environment where the target of satire does not exist, is it still satire?”
Generational Differences…in Spaaaace
In the anime Darling in the Franxx, the characters eventually take to space to fight a greater threat. I often welcome this familiar trope, having grown up on it as a matter of course, and the studio behind Franxx, Trigger, is often known for this particular kind of escalation. But to a number of viewers, this is the point at which the show jumps the shark. To them, the move to space battles makes little sense, and nothing about what came prior sets up this little twist. In contrast, I think Franxx is at its strongest after this point, and it’s because I’m of the A-ko generation without having previously seen A-ko.
That fandom generation gap is evident in the constant presence of that Star Wars–esque science fiction/space fantasy aesthetic in Project A-ko. Spaceships, aliens, and beam weapons are mixed into the setting and the narrative, and while technically there’s a twist, the plot revelation component is less important than the pretense it allows for more fantastic animation. And of course, there really isn’t any science fiction in the thematic or philosophical sense—it’s all about the explosions. “Why wouldn’t you have a space battle?” asks the 1980s/1990s anime fan, and Project A-ko is designed to be a collage of all the things that anime fans of the era adored.
A Worthwhile Experience
While I know all too well the period in Western anime fandom when Project A-ko was a definitive anime—from the obsession with chibis to the limited reference material that shaped the perception of anime in a certain direction—I also know that I can never truly return to that time. I can only look at Project A-ko from a point where it’s not the mind-blowing, life-altering experience that introduced me to all of the possibilities of animation. But that’s okay: Project A-ko still has a certain charm that’s hard to deny. The lack of inhibition it conveys and the loving care put into every second of it still stand the test of time, at least in terms of spectacle.
For better or worse, I’ve decided to attend Otakon 2021 this year. And barring an even more devastating report about COVID-19 and the delta variant than what’s already out, it looks like I’ll be on track. I’ll be vaccinated and masked, and while it’s basically impossible to ask anyone to be the former just one week out from Otakon, there’s also a mask mandate for the event itself. Stay safe, everyone!
I have a single Otakon panel this year, and it’s actually one I’d been trying to get into the con for a while now. Come see:
Saturday Morning MILFs (18+)
Did you know that kids’ anime has a long history of spotlighting hot moms?! They’re here to teach kids important lessons…and keep the parents from changing the channel! Explore the legacy of attractive mothers in Japanese animation and their continuing influence on the fandom.
Yes, I made an educational panel about anime MILFs. I looked at the schedule, and I’m the only 18+ panel on Friday, so it feels rather…daunting.
Anyway, I’d like to thank the following Patreon sponsors for supporting the blog and allowing me to indirectly research topics like attractive anime moms:
If I see you at Otakon, I’ll be glad to give a solid thumbs-up from a safe distance. And remember: Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask. Let’s make this a memorable convention where no one catches COVID-19.
And one last thing: I’m really, really looking forward to seeing Gaogaigo in Super Robot Wars 30. I hope I can finish the last novel before the game comes out.
Summer 2021 anime is just beginning, and there are plenty of shows I’m looking forward to. Chief among them is Getter Robo Arc, bringing the classic giant robot franchise into the 2020s. I definitely plan on reviewing it once it’s done, but I’m curious to see how it does with a modern-day anime audience.
Speaking of robots, Bandai just announced the GX-100 Soul of Chogokin: Gaiking and Daikumaryu. Coming in at 82,500 yen and measuring about 750mm, it is going to be an impressive hunk of diecast metal. I’m not a super big fan of Gaiking, but I’m looking forward to all the toy reviews.
Also, check out this GX-100 celebration stream featuring Sasaki Isao, singer of Yamato, Gaiking, Getter Robo, and many other classic themes.
Before getting into the posts from the past month, I’d like to thank the following Patreon sponsors:
I mentioned last month that I am fully vaccinated, and it’s given me a new sense of security and freedom I didn’t have before. However, now we have a new COVID-19 variant, the Delta variant, wreaking devastation around the world. It’s also getting a foothold in the US, and I find myself nervous that I’m getting a little too complacent and worrying about trying to neitheo over- or undercompensate for the current situation. Having to balance the psychological happiness that comes from doing things again with some sense of normality with awareness that we are in no way close to getting out of this pandemic reminds me of all the conscious decisions I’ve had to make these past 18 months, and the toll it can take.
That being said, I plan on being at Otakon next month. I’ll be fully masked, and playing it as carefully as I can short of canceling. I hope it’s the right choice.
Last year at this time, it felt like the world might not ever be the same again. This past month, I became fully vaccinated.
While I’m still exercising caution in a lot of different ways (including wearing a mask in public), the extra safety a COVID-19 vaccine has provided has helped tremendously to alleviate some of the psychological pressure I’ve been feeling since 2020. For the first time in a long while, I feel like I can grasp some sense of the normal again. I’m still undecided if I want to attend the recently confirmed Otakon 2021, though.
I just hope that we actually learn from the mistakes we’ve made on a social and political level, and that we must create a better “normal” than the one that resulted in a global catastrophe powered by greed and willful ignorance. I’m fortunate to be in a place where I could obtain a vaccination after a year and a half of keeping safe, as not everyone has been able to do that. The real failures—whether they’ve been in the US, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, China, India, or elsewhere—are the consequences of poor leadership above all else.
I can’t make anyone get the vaccine, and availability varies from place to place, but I hope everyone does what they can to at least protect themselves and those they care for.
Thank you to June’s Patreon sponsors, with special gratitude to the following.
I just learned that Zettai Karen Children is ending soon after 17 years. It’s amazing to see a series that ran for seemingly forever actually reach the finish line. Authors and artists, take care of yourselves!