by Justin Sevakis,
It's hard to know where to begin with Compiler, a strange 2-part OAV from 1994. It's utterly insane, a bipolar high-speed assault on sanity and character development that really doesn't add up to much in the story department, but somehow rises to another level. It does so almost entirely by being weird.
Anime comedies that try for weirdness are a dime a dozen, but most of them do so in a pretty rote manner: they make a nerdy reference here, make someone stupid there, a couple of people fall down and gush blood. One of the things that makes anime comedy work for most people (initially, at least) is its unexpected nature; everything seems like it's coming out of left field. But once one sees enough of the stuff, one sees that anime has just as many tired clichés as American cartoons... they're just different clichés. Compiler is different from all the other middle-of-the-road 90s comedy OAVs: it is never what you're expecting. In fact, the second episode is a completely different style of comedy from the first.
Compiler and Assembler, two computer programs given human bodies (a la Tron, except they're hot and female) were sent from cyberspace by the evil digital overlords to basically reformat the world. (They call it a game.) Soon, however, the two end up moving in with two young brothers that happened to be unlucky enough to collide with their shenanigans, and completely losing interest in the game. They settle down and pine over the two brothers: the more mature Compiler opts for older brother, a self-absorbed playboy named Nacchi, while the more innocent Assembler goes for the already attached college kid Toshi.
Despite copious amounts of nudity in the house (apparently digital beings don't really get the concept of "modesty"), nothing ever seems to happen. Nacchi's too clueless to pick on Compiler's subtle clues, and Toshi is indecisive and lame. What's more, both the girls are pretty nuts. Assembler is constantly in hysterics and on the defensive, while Compiler is more of an aloof loner. But together, this group makes of a pretty messed up family, and they seem to enjoy it.
The first OAV ("Yin") is a completely ridiculous day-in-the-life, in which Nacchi gets a bunch of coupons for food in Osaka (which is, apparently, the city's major attraction), and so the gang embarks on a road trip for the sole purpose of eating themselves into a coma. The evil powers behind sending the girls in the first place send two programs -- Upload and Download -- to eliminate the turncoats. The two parties end up squaring off by making the various giant fast food mascots come to life and duke it out in the city, kaiju style. (This episode is chock full of Osaka jokes that most Americans will never get, but the English version adds in enough one-liners and other jokes to keep us entertained nonetheless.)
Part 2 ("Yang"), by a different writer/director entirely, is much more somber, and deals with Compiler's conflicted emotions about Nacchi. Nacchi's a horrible drunk, and whenever he drinks, he tries to pick up girls. This leads to a lot of embarrassing situations later on. When he tries the same tired pick-up lines on her, Compiler gets so angry she can barely speak. Unlike the random girls he hits on, she actually does care for him, and he just doesn't get it.
Compiler is based on a manga by animator-turned-mangaka Kia Asamiya. I haven't read it, but having attempted to read several of his other works, I will go out on a limb and guess that they're very pretty and completely incomprehensible.
I saw a fansub of Compiler a few years before ADV licensed it, and I enjoyed it that way, but it wasn't until Matt Greenfield's dub arrived at my doorstep that I really took on a deep love for the show. His English screenplay is quite possibly his best work: a non-stop barrage of wit that takes every possible opportunity for a chuckle, usually succeeding. He wisely plays up Nacchi's manic side, twisting normal conversations until they become ludicrous. Even the somber second episode is filled with tiny little absurdities (particularly in the background, as the characters watch television). You need to listen with headphones to catch many of them.
As is the case with some of his other well-done comedic dubs, the performances aren't exactly nuanced. Rather, they're completely over-the-top and screaming. Luckily, this suits the show quite well, and the casting features some ADV's brightest stars of the era, including Brett Weaver (as the obnoxious Nacchi), Jessica Calvello (giving a sweet but violent edge to Assembler) and Spike Spencer (who turns in his usual "clueless young guy" as Toshi). While ADV's dubs of this era weren't always good (or even passable) Compiler is most decidedly one of their best.
There's a second Compiler OAV series (also with two episodes) that deals with an incident that threatens to take the girls away from Tokyo and from the boys they love. While quite serviceable in its own right, the sudden blast of coherence actually takes away from the series' quirky charm. Suddenly, knowing what's going on doesn't seem quite as exciting as it normally would. It's far more fun to latch onto the exploits of this troupe of weirdos mid-stride, absurdity already in progress. But far worse, it adds some absolutely unwelcome predictability and stale genre tropes to the proceedings.
But the original Compiler is one of those mid-90s OAVs that leaves you scratching your head as to both its context and its intentions. I have no idea why only this section of the story was animated, why the shift in tones, and why the change of directors. I'll probably never know the full back story behind Assembler and Compiler, and I'd prefer not to know where they're going. They're just two stray computer programs with humanoid shapes, living with two brothers that they love with but never seem to get anywhere with, hanging out in Tokyo, playing house and chugging beers.
Yeah, that's still a pretty cool, unique premise. Despite not being all that intelligent, or having the best visuals in the world, that uniqueness is what sets Compiler apart.
|A||Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.|
|C||Common. In print, and always available online.|
|R1||US release out of print, still in stock most places.|
|R2||US release out of print, not easy to find.|
|R3||Import only, but it has English on it.|
|R4||Import only. Fansubs commonly available.|
|R5||Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.|
|R6||Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.|
|R7||Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.|
|R8||Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.|
|Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.|
Where to get it:
Despite being briefly solicited for DVD (in the same breath as Suikoden: Demon Century), ADV never ended up releasing it, and the rights have since lapsed. The VHS release, in both dub and sub, can still be found online. To this day, I hold out hope that some company might be able to rescue this license for cheap. For those not needing English, there's a Japanese DVD out there (that's already out of print), but frankly, this is one that's far better dubbed.
Screenshots ©1994 KIA ASAMIYA / KODANSHA • KING RECORDS • MOVIC
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