by Mike Crandol,



The secret organization Doress has been genetically altering unwilling human test subjects, then selling the results on the black market. Their most impressive accomplishment is BAOH, a parasite that lives in the brain and transforms its host into an invincible monster when danger threatens. Trouble is, BAOH's human host, Ikuroo, has escaped from Doress along with another experiment, the telepathic child Sumire and her furry companion Nottsuo. Ikuroo has no memory of his past and sets out with the orphaned Sumire to try and find it. When Doress sends more of its creations, including a cyborg assasin and the psychic Indian warrior Walken, after the pair, Ikuroo must transform in BAOH to protect both Sumire and himself.
According to the tagline, BAOH "lives in your brain, and it won't let you die." It's also amazingly hard to pronounce, turns people into really weird-looking monsters, and makes for a mindless mix of shallow storytelling and wanton violence. The unoriginal plot rips off everything from The Terminator to The Incredible Hulk without managing to absorb any of the humanity that made those stories interesting in the first place, and presents us with 50 minutes of mutant freaks, cyborgs, and electric Indians punching each other in the head. As entertaining as that may sound, trust me, it's not.

The no-dimensional cast makes "BAOH's" short running time feel infinitely longer than it is, and even the coolest fight scenes seem downright dull. Dragon Ball Z looks like Shakespeare in comparison to these bland characters, and "BAOH" proves that for even the most testosterone-heavy anime to be enjoyable there must be some kind of personality behind its superpowered combatants. Ikuroo exhibits some angst over his missing past and freakish powers - but who wouldn't? It hardly counts as character development. Even more unforgivable is the nonexistent relationship between Ikuroo and Sumire, the telepathic little girl he ends up traveling with. This kid has no personality of any kind, just the furry mutant Nottsuo on her shoulder, who looks suspiciously like Nausicaä's Teto. Sumire and Ikuroo don't bond, nor do they bicker; they don't do anything except walk around together and get in trouble. The contrast between the big brooding Ikuroo and his tiny companion suggests all kinds of possible personality dynamics, but the creators are obviously more interested in how bloody they can make BAOH's next fight scene.

Without any emotional investment in these characters, it's really hard to care when Sumire is kidnapped, Ikuroo transforms into BAOH, and battles his way to her rescue. There is some imagination put into these sequences, but things soon get repetitive and "BAOH" fails even as mindless entertainment. The first time BAOH smashes a guy's head in may make you sit up and take notice; the fiftieth time around is hardly impressive. Making matters even worse is the show's ludicrous habit of freezing the action mid-battle to display the names of BAOH's attacks. Do we really need to know that BAOH has just performed the "Reskini Harden Saber Phenomenon"? Is there a quiz after the show?

It's something of a shame "BAOH" is so bad, because someone obviously spent a lot of yen to make it. Funded by TOHO, the OVA sports some lively animation and handsome art design. Many of the characters are pretty grotesque, however a lot of detail went into their creation, and they are brought convincingly to life in full animation that is equally lavished on high-energy action scenes as well as some calmer moments. But most striking is the lushly painted cel work. Each frame is filled with many levels of shadows, and every character features a wide-ranging palette that no doubt gave the ink and paint crew a heck of a time. Indeed, "BAOH" manages to be entertaining for the first ten minutes or so solely on the strength of its visuals.

As equally uninspired as the storytelling are the vocal performances, both Japanese and English. Given the lackluster material one can't expect too much, but some more impassioned acting might have made the show marginally more interesting than it is. The main players all suffer from wooden delivery, and many of the secondary voice actors don't even try that hard. Sumire's forced "girly" voice doesn't sound like a little girl in English or in Japanese.

Thankfully AnimEigo's DVD release comes free of any "bonus" BAOH material - just the standard still gallery. However there are some fascinating linear notes included that illuminate way more about the show and its manga origins than anybody would ever care to know. As for the program itself, the video quality is pretty good for a show of this age - fortunate as the attractive visuals are all "BAOH" has going for it. Sound quality is also decent, the 2.0 stereo mix driving home the generic dialogue and musical score home in all its mediocre glory.

Like a failed pilot for a second-rate 1980s action show, "BAOH" appears to have been made to launch a potential series. If that was the plan, it gladly never came to pass. For all its visual sheen, there is very little to recommend about this soulless production. As AnimEigo so ironically puts it on the back of the DVD case, "BAOH Must Die!"
Overall (dub) : F
Overall (sub) : F
Story : F
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : D

+ pretty pictures
pretty bad everything else

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Production Info:
Director: Hiroyuki Yokoyama
Screenplay: Kenji Terada
Hiroyuki Namba
Hiroyuki Nanba
Original Manga: Hirohiko Araki
Character Design:
Michi Sanaba
Art Director:
Michiharu Miyamae
Mitsuharu Miyamae
Animation Director:
Michi Sanaba
Mechanical design: Masayoshi Tano
Director of Photography: Jin Kaneko
Executive producer:
Kazuo Nakano
Haruo Sai
Producer: Reiko Fukakusa

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