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Otakon 2022
Project A-Ko 2 Remaster

by Bamboo Dong,

Who could have imagined that in 2022, there would be a packed room full of fans breathlessly waiting for the opening scene to roll on Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group? Not just the anime—a 70-minute absurdist comedy that somehow deftly encapsulates everything fans fondly remember about late 1980s anime—but a brand new remaster, from the restoration wizards at Discotek? And yet, there everyone was, shoulder-to-shoulder, basking in the glorious camaraderie of nostalgia and whispers of a bygone era.

Project A-ko 2 is… to put it bluntly, it's fine. It doesn't quite have the emotional heart or narrative ambition as the legendary Project A-ko, which raised an entire generation of anime fans who grew up in the dim and sticky aisles of Blockbuster Video. The OVAs that came after the first movie's success always felt a little unnecessary, even if there are some good laughs in each one. Some jokes don't age well, like the repeat appearance of the burly female aliens who still rely on the visual gag of presenting as excessively masculine. Yikes. The 80s were a different time, for sure, but in the modern era, it just leads to a room full of fans kind of squirming every time that punchline gets rolled out yet again.

But despite it's mediocrity, the fact that a title like Project A-ko 2 can still pack a room is magic by itself. There's something to be said about fans who know that the title is a shadow of Project A-ko but still want to spend their time feasting their eyes on a sparkling new remaster. And with how rough the past few years have been, there's something so warm and comforting about being at an anime convention again, watching goofy cartoons with hundreds of strangers who are all there for the exact same reason.

Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group takes place a few weeks after the events of the first movie. The aliens have turned their ship into a shopping mall in the hopes that they can scrape up enough money to fix it and go home, but things run amok. B-Ko's nefarious but smokin' hot dad, the head of the Daitokuji Financial Group, has plans to pilfer the fancy alien tech from inside the ship. To do so, he steals the plans for an elaborate mech from his daughter, who's still pining after the cute-but-perennially-insufferable C-Ko, and plotting A-Ko's destruction.

It's a tad on the sluggish side, but picks up. Most of the action is packed into the back half of the OVA, which features combining mechs, an entire army of incompetent government suits, and a great showdown between A-Ko and a bevvy of heavy weaponry. It also features some of the better gags in the program, which pulls from the original title's signature brand of quietly hilarious absurdist humor. That's always been one of the hallmarks of comedies like Project A-ko versus some of the more slapdash and frenetic comedies in the mid-90s—there's a straight-faced unexpectedness that absolutely kills when it lands, like B-Ko's dad suddenly tractor-beaming up into a mech to join his square board members, or lobbing cannonballs with angry messages scrawled for A-Ko. It helps make up for the things that Project A-ko 2 lacks, like higher quality animation or a more imaginative narrative.

There's a great scene right at the end, where C-Ko stops by A-Ko's house to ask her to go to the pool. As she waits for the door to open, the camera pulls out and we see the smoking remains of the house, with windows askew and doors literally falling off the hinges. They run hand-in-hand to the pool, but stop to stare over the city, whose tallest skyscraper now props up a precariously balanced ship, while pillars of smoke rise up all over the harbor. They pause for a beat, but move on, undeterred. The last thing they see is B-Ko, waiting with crossed arms. She spent a whole OVA trying to kill A-Ko but now she's glad to see her, another familiar face in the sea of chaos. If there was ever an apt metaphor for our times, it's that scene.

Ultimately, Project A-ko 2 feels like an afterthought (and really, it was) to the immensely superior Project A-ko, but for fans who are just eager to relive that part of their youth, it's hard to not smile when you're watching it. There's an old familiarity that you can't shake that wraps you like a warm blanket, except now it has that new car smell and looks like it was just colored yesterday. And somehow, watching it with other fans just feels right. So maybe if you can, rustle up a few of your closest pals when this odd little gem drops on Blu-Ray later this month and pretend like you're at an anime club again, because it's the feeling, not the film, that's the biggest winner here.

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